Keeping the house, the kids and the hubby without breaking the bank, the earth, the people I love, or myself.

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Sharp wire brushes leave your caviar looking clean

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When Social Networking is Your Cookbook

I stumbled upon this recipe for baked egg boats last week.  A few days later I went shopping and what's on sale but most of the ingredients:  pancetta (already diced, too!), cheese, and baguettes.  (You can find me on StumbleUpon as CannedAm.)

Recipes aren't always perfect upon reading, however.  While gruyere would be lovely in this recipe, at several dollars for a few ounces, I'm not buying it.  Cheddar is also lovely and did you know that light (lower fat), aged cheddar has more calcium in it than any other food source per serving? Hard aged cheeses also lose most of the lactose.  With a lactose-intolerant vegetarian among my brood, aged light cheddar is a staple.   I also have no desire to use heavy cream, let alone purchase a container just for a lunchtime recipe, so I used regular 1% milk instead.


I think the Dempster's demi baguettes are longer than the ones Teri at Spoon Fork Bacon used.  The plain white variety is less porous than the sourdough she used, and I think both those factors necessitated an increased cook time.


I made three baguettes using the onions, pancetta, and cheddar with eggs and milk mix and one baguette using spinach instead of pancetta.


I may have been a little heavy-handed with the spinach.  I used about 1/2 cup of raw spinach, chopped and should have used less for only one baguette.  I would love to show you what it looked like once cut, but she took it and ran away with it right after I snapped this picture!

I've always hand-written my recipes in a way that is helpful for my ADD brain to follow and not lose track of where I am and what I am doing.  The standard recipe format requires one to look back and forth from ingredients to instructions and for an ADHD person, a single distraction in that process can spell recipe disaster.  While my hand-written method is rather messy and hard for anyone but me to decipher, one day I stumbled upon Cooking for Engineers and there I saw tables that were just like my own scribbles, but so much neater!  It hadn't occurred to me to use tables, so I had never digitized my hand-written recipes.  I am doing so now!


A more visual person than I would probably want to colour code a table like this.

If that's too hard to understand, here it is the old-fashioned way:


Ingredients:

  • 4 demi baguettes
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 ounces/115 grams pancetta, finely chopped and fried until crisp*
  • 3 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut a deep “V” through the tops of each baguette until about a 1/2 inch to the bottom. Partially unstuff the baguettes. Set aside.
  3. Place the eggs and milk into a mixing bowl and lightly beat together. Whisk in the remaining ingredients 4. Divide and pour the mixture into each baguette boat and place onto a baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown, puffed and set in the center. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, cut and serve.
*Substitute an 1/4 cup of fresh chopped spinach for pancetta for each baguette.

And yes, they were very well-received.  Delicious!  

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Tips for Coping with the New Garbage Limits in the Niagara Region

Those of us in the Niagara region will soon experience changes in our waste management.  Specifically our previous 2-bag/container trash limit will be reduced to one.  However, blue and grey bins will be collected weekly instead of rotating biweekly collections of one bin.  This is good news in my opinion!  However some are complaining about the changes. 

When we moved to the region six years ago, full-on recycling was a huge adjustment as we'd moved from an area that had no recycling at all.  Everything went in the trash.  It took a few months for everyone to get accustomed to the change.  But we did.  As everyone else will with these changes. 

Green Bin Usage is the Issue
I heard one radio news report stating that region-wide green bin use was only at 30%.  Just by looking down the road on collection day I would say this is accurate.  Failing to use the green bin for organics waste dramatically increases a household's weekly trash.  According to the US Composting council, 74% of landfill waste is organic.  This isn't just a problem with the quantities we're sending to landfills, but the composition of what we send to landfills.  Organics in nature will break down releasing carbon dioxide, however that carbon dioxide that results from a natural breakdown (such as backyard composting or forest floor decomposition) is part of nature's short-term carbon cycle.  Plant photosynthesis will clear out this carbon dioxide.  However, in a landfill, decomposing organics release carbon as methane, which has a far greater impact on global warming than carbon dioxide.  One of the BEST things we can do personally to reduce our impact on the earth that sustains us is to compost our organics waste.  We can't compost meat-based waste in our backyards, but if our municipalities will do so, by all means we should send them all we can and eliminate all the organics we possibly can from our landfills. 


But the Green Bin Stinks!

Yes, it does.  Just as much as a garbage bag/can that contains animal fats like chicken skin, etc.  There are lots of ways to reduce this stink, and to reduce all the other unpalatable aspects of organics recycling.  Here's what we do:

  1. Backyard composting.  If you garden, start backyard composting.  Only place vegetable and fruit scraps (never any meat scraps or eggs or fats) in your backyard compost bin.  Add a great deal of brown matter -- newspaper, leaves, straw, etc., to create a healthy mix and stir it up.  Removing fruit and vegetable scraps from your home daily will prevent fruit flies from flocking to your kitchen for those scraps. In the Niagara Region you can purchase a backyard composter from the region for up to 80% LESS than you can buy one in a store. 
  2. Freeze your organics.  Keep a small, kitchen-sized compostable liner or a brown paper lunch sack in your refrigerator freezer for all the animal wastes.  Grease from cooking, bones, skin, leftover meat -- all of those things that stink to no end when rotting in a garbage can or the green bin can go into the freezer where they are not going to stink.  On trash day, toss the bags in the green bin and take it to the curb.  This eliminates maggots in the warmer months, along with the stench of rot - eliminating varmint attraction as well.  Add newspaper to the bottom of your green bin to absorb the moisture that results from the frozen waste thawing.  Our household of five rarely has more than one bag of this waste each week.  Often we need two weeks to fill it, but we do compost our own vegetable and fruit scraps. 
  3. Rinse your green bin out every week during the non-frozen months. 
What goes in the organics bin?

It's not just for food waste!  Cat litter can be composted in the Niagara Region.  Since I foster cats and kittens, this is a boon for us!  Without composting of cat litter, we often exceeded our trash limits.  Ever since the region started composting cat litter I've never exceeded our limits. 

Napkins, paper towels, tissues (that haven't been used to blow one's nose or the like) can all go into the compost bin.  My in-laws reduce kitchen bin odors and leakage mess by keeping a countertop bin in which they place ONLY paper towels and paper napkins.  When that bin is full, they fill their under-counter bin with the paper wastes before adding food scraps.  Those papers absorb the moisture from their kitchen waste.  They don't backyard compost and I've noticed they never have a problem with fruit flies from their under-counter organics bin. 

Cooking grease -- fats skimmed off broths and the like can be let to congeal in a container (like an empty tin can, then scraped into the compost bag. 

Recycling is so messy. I'd rather just pay the fee

You'd rather throw your money away, eh? If that's truly your position, there's no reasoning with you.  On the other hand, if you are simply adjusting to multiple bins, there are ways to deal with the mess of multiple recycling bins, waste cans, and organics bins. 


Weekly pickup of both gray and blue bins is going to make a big difference in the messy factor.  What we've done in our home to manage this mess is still applicable. 

Have a central recycling location.  If keeping all the recycling in a garage or outdoors is not an option for you, keep your large recycling bins at a central location indoors.  Our basement works for this. In the bathrooms and kitchen we have small rubbermaid bins for recycling under our sinks.  In our powder room, a small plastic sorting bin works to contain the small amount of recycling for that room (soap boxes, TP rolls, plastic wrappers).  These small bins are taken to the large bins in the basement when full and sorted there.  This is our youngest children's task.  We use a single plastic shopping bag hung on a hook to place all the plastic bread and milk bags that accumulate.  When it's full, it's tied and placed in the gray bin. 

Remember to rinse all your recyclable containers.  Empty cans, jars, and milk bags will create a stink and attract bugs or other pests.  Keeping a small sorting bin under the kitchen sink makes this easy.  

On another hook, we keep a narrow newspaper bag sleeve to collect batteries.  When full enough, I drop it at any of the orange bins local to me (for me that's in a local pharmacy.  For others this may be a roadside orange bin or Staples store location, among other places.)  I used to hold onto these for up to a year waiting for the annual household hazardous waste recycling days, but orange bin distribution has eliminated the need for that wait. Using rechargeable batteries has also dramatically reduced our battery consumption as well. 


Grass Clippings
Another change to note is that grass will no longer be collected with the green bin. 

Grass is easily composted in your yard.  If you don't have a mulching mower, reducing the days between mowings and raking out any accumulation will facilitate breakdown right on your lawn. 

You can use grass clippings as mulch, too.  Yes, you'll get some weed seeds in there but weeds can easily be pulled when they're young. 

You can also put your grass clippings in your backyard composter. 

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Watching You Watch the Rain

Watching you watch the rain:
Your lined and sagging home
of eyes that take in all
Tranquil before the gentle
Sometimes angry pattering.
I hid so you could not see
me watching you watch the rain.
The scene always held one holiness:
Your solitude among the million chattering drops.
I wanted to think what you thought,
Feel the peace I saw in you --
Watching you watch the rain
Is a thousand images
of one picture in my head
As I sit, elbows on knees,
My child nearby watching me
Recalling
Watching you watch the rain. 

-RMH 

I have often wished I had the artistic ability to paint as this image is so clear in my mind.  It's been nearly six years and I still miss him.  I am grateful I had his love and guidance for 35 years of my life. 

Jack E. Loar August 3, 1929 - October 2, 2004

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Camp foods need not be crap foods

We've recently returned from a camping trip and for once I don't need to detox from all the high-preservative foods we normally eat on a camping trip.  Spoilage was always a concern in the past, so we'd pack hotdogs and heavily preserved sausages of various sorts along with peanut butter and eggs.  We would come home and live on fresh salads for a week to clear all the heavy preservative-laden foods from our systems.

This time, we did things differently and now I can't imagine why we had never planned things out this way in the past.  I suppose we simply did what we'd always done and what our parents had always done. Here are some delicious camp-friendly recipes that will be staples of our summer camping trips from now on:

Bean Burgers
1 can beans, any type (we used pintos) drained and rinsed
1 cup bread crumbs (seasoned simplifies things and adds flavour)
1 egg
1 small onion diced fine
1 carrot peeled and shredded
2 Tbsp olive oil

Mash the beans in a bowl and mix with all other ingredients.  Refrigerate for one hour before forming patties.  I formed 4 nice-sized patties from this mix.  For camping, I sprayed foil and wrapped each burger in the foil.  We cooked the bean burgers in the foil over the fire.  When well-frozen, it took about 30 minutes over medium heat to cook to the desired outer crispiness.  When thawed, about 15 minutes.

Fire Roasted Corn on the Cob
Having farm stands nearby our campground, we were able to pick up fresh corn on the cob to serve that night.  The kids absolutely loved the fire-roasted corn and did not add butter or salt!  Fire roasting doesn't boil out the flavour of the corn, it enhances it and you get that delicious smokey flavour from the fire!

Do not shuck the corn, but do remove the cornsilks, leaving the husks intact.  Soak each cob in water for about 10 minutes.  Thoroughly waterlog it.  If some of the husk is missing or torn or doesn't cover the cob completely, use a bit of foil to wrap around the circumference of the cob.  Roast over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.  The husks will be blackened on the outside, but the corn will be juicy and perfect inside.  Some of the corn may darken, but it won't be much and it still tastes so good! 

Campfire Banana Splits
This was a hit for everyone but one of my children.  He did not like his bananas cooked.

Bananas
Chocolate chips (or a chocolate bar)
mini marshmallows
(Optional:  shredded coconut, nuts)

Peel a single strip down the center of the banana.   Make a slice down the center of the banana.  We found it easiest to scoop a bit of banana out of the center, instead of trying to shove all the filling into a narrow knife-slit.  Fill the hollow with chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. Pull the peel back up  and wrap the entire banana in foil.  Place over fire for about 10 minutes.  Open the foil and the banana and eat with a spoon.  This was a lovely treat! 

Foil-pack vegetables

You can do these so many different ways.  In one pack we did:
quartered new potatoes
diced onions
diced peppers
Seasoned with butter (buttered the foil) salt, pepper, and diced garlic cloves

Cooked over medium heat about 30 minutes.

sliced summer squash and zucchini
Diced peppers
Diced onions
thinly sliced new potatoes
buttered the foil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and diced garlic cloves

We deep-froze chicken breasts to take with us.  Once they thaw: cook them!

Hobo Pizzas
You need pie irons for these, along with:

Bread
canned pizza sauce
shredded cheese
pizza toppings (pepperoni, diced vegetables)

Butter the bread and place the buttered side against the pie iron.  Spread the bread with pizza sauce and add toppings.  Top with another buttered bread (butter side against the pie iron).  Lock the pie iron and cook it right in the coals of the fire.  Takes about 10 minutes.

You could make a ranch-chicken pizza:
Bread
Ranch dressing
canned chicken
shredded cheddar
onion diced
tomato diced
Optional:  cooked bacon or ham

Compile as you would the other pizza & cook the same.

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Heartland Forest, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Less than two years ago we visited the fairly new Heartland Forest in Niagara Falls. Compare the pictures from that blog posting to this one as the changes are incredible!

*For a larger, more detailed view of any of the pictures, simply double click on the picture.  

When we first visited, we were greeted at the forest entry by this partial carving:  


Big Ted is now complete, with a cute message next to him:


More carvings can be found throughout the more than two miles of Carolinian Forest trails:

 A pond just inside the forest entry has an accessible lookout from which one can observe pond life:
So many photo ops, too: 
and opportunities for a peaceful rest surrounded by beauty:

During this visit, the accessible cabin was open for learning opportunities and activities for FrogFest Niagara.  The boys made FrogFest badges while I took pictures outside the cabin:
We were thrilled by the fauna throughout the forest.  Obviously many people have been very busy naturalizing some native species, such as Ontario's flower, the white Trillium:




We also saw a magnificent magenta trillium (it's actually red trillium, trillium erectum, the only red-petaled trillium native to Ontario):

And an excellent example of poison ivy vine:
(don't worry, it is labeled and slightly off the trail so you won't be stumbling into it)

wild geranium was in bloom and quite abundant:

At this time of year, the numerous vernal pools throughout this forest are still full and quite active:

There are just so many treasures along the trails.  The kids enjoyed sitting inside this teepee:



There were also many new-to-us additions before the trail begins. Much to the boys' delight, an incredible playground contains structures to delight the very small as well as the much larger child. Like this enormous merry-go-round:




and this incredible swing:
 and of course a huge frog swing to share:


Near the forest entrance is a pond surrounded by a boardwalk.  Bird feeders are found in many places.  Perhaps it's just my imagination, but I think the red-winged black birds' colour is particularly vibrant this year:



What a wonderful, amazing place! If you're local to the area, or just visiting, check it out. There are many activities planned throughout the year, but they aren't needed to enjoy this natural treasure.  This is a great place to go with your family.  Go, enjoy, be awed!



*The photograph in the blog header was taken within the Heartland Forest.

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When You Have Eleventy-seven Hardboiled Eggs and Don't Know What To Do With Them

Deviled Eggs
My kids love these for an afterschool snack.  They like to take them to school, too, but I haven't found a way to do this without mess.  Quick, easy, and yummy. Here's how I do it:

  1. Carefully slice the eggs in half lenthwise.
  2. Put the yolk into a small mixing bowl or food processor.
  3. Add 1 T Miracle Whip and 2 tsps mustard for 6 egg yolks. 
  4. Add 1 tsp pickle relish.
  5. If doing this by hand, mash well with a fork.  If using a food processor, pulse until blended and creamy.
  6. Fill each egg half's hollow with the mixture.  
  7. Sprinkle with paprika.  (The more adventurous might like cayenne. Young kids who didn't get weaned on Tabasco sauce will not.)

Egg Salad
Use for sandwiches within three days.
  1. Dice your eggs, yolk and all.
  2. Add diced celery (I use one rib for 5-6 eggs)
  3. Add diced onion (I don't like onion much, so I add about 1/8 cup)
  4. Add pickle relish (a tablespoon)
  5. Add mustard (2 teaspoons)
  6. Add Miracle Whip (1 Tablespoon to start, may need 2)
  7. Mix.  Voila.  Egg salad.


Quick Pickled Eggs
You can quickly pickle eggs by using the liquid from canned/jarred beets.  Just cover the eggs with the beet juice from canned beets, then let them sit in the fridge overnight or several hours.  There you go, quickly pickled eggs.



A couple other options:

  • Dice the white and use as a salad topping.
  • My daughter, who is vegetarian, adds hard boiled eggs to vegetable soups.  
  • You can freeze hard boiled eggs to use another day.  Simply thaw them in the refrigerator and then use them.

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About This Blog

Saving money. Saving graces. Raising children, husbands and, sometimes, cats. Laughing. Living. Thinking. Doing. Life in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

About Me

I am a happily married woman with four children and various cats and kittens (fosters). I love to read and my favourite authors are George RR Martin, Thomas Hardy, Raymond Carver, PD James, Kurt Vonnegut, J. K. Rowling, and Margaret Atwood. I know there are only three women in that list (and none of them American), so if you'd like to suggest some I'm willing to give them a shot! And yes, I am an American living in Canada. (Hence the nick -- CannedAm.) I like it here. There are things about the states that I miss, but my love is here and this country has things to offer that my own does not. Things that make my quality of life much better than it ever was in Ohio. Guess I'm stuck here. Though there's a nice spot in the Appalachian hills where I'd love to spend my retirement.

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