Krampus is a Comin’

by MK Martin

Have you been good? Hide all your birch switches, and say something kind to everyone you see today. In many parts of Europe, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated December 6th. On the night before, the horned devil Krampus roams the streets, seeking out the homes of naughty children. Mostly, he just swats at them, but some stories suggest very naughty children will be eaten! With that in mind, here are two sweet Icelandic recipes to try. Maybe if you leave him a little shortcake, he’ll walk on by.

Coconut Wreaths
(makes about 2 dozen)
These are pretty, and they smell great.wreath.jpg

The recipe calls for a cookie press, which is a tube gun you attach a metal thing to at the end. If you don’t want to use one, you can roll little balls and flatten on the cookie sheet, or try to loosely shape the wreaths yourself, but the dough gets a bit hard to handle! I found a free form photo above ^^

Ingredients:

200 g flour
200 g dessicated coconut
150 g sugar
200 g butter, softened
1 egg

Mix the flour, coconut and sugar. A whisk works well here.

Fold in the egg and butter, and mix until it just comes together. I know, it’s counter intuitive to most cookie directions, but it will come together.

Run the dough through the cookie press, fitted with a simple attachment, and run it through in lengths of about 6 cm, which you then shape into a wreath right on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350, for 8 minutes (but you know my rule, check after 7), until light and golden.

Icelandic Spice Cake

Here is a cake full of the flavor of the holidays, without the weight and prep time of a fruit cake. The warming spices are anti inflammatory, and anti bacterial, even if they’re being mixed with sugar. A little dark cocoa ups the ‘health’ factor.This is also a cake you mix by hand, but you might be able to get away with a stand mixer on lowest setting. (makes enough cake for two layers, but is often cut into 4. You can do a sheet pan as well.)

Ingredients

500 g flour
350 g sugar
250 g butter
2 eggs
3 tsp ground cloves
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbs dark cocoa
milk, as needed

*What does ‘as needed’ mean? For many European cake recipes, a kneaded dough is used, rather than a batter. This is batter style, but the recipe still calls for a ‘medium thick’ batter, such as a muffin might have. I pour out a 1/2 cup of milk and use that, usually all of it. *

Cream together sugar and butter. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.

Sift, or whisk, your dry ingredients together. Add to the butter mixture a few TBSP at a time, mix, then a splash of milk. This is why this part is better done by hand, as it will go faster than it sounds and not be overmixed.

Pour into greased 8 in cake tins, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes, give or take, depending on your oven. My bake time always varies, thanks to spotty heat.

Serve frosted with layers of buttercream, or our favorite: for breakfast with a little fresh whipped cream.

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Sugar Cookies for Every Day

by MK Martin

The only STEM subject I enjoyed in school was Chemistry. It’s pretty easy to make the jump from chemistry to ‘alchemy’ in the mind, and making fantasy a part of my reality was a form of anxiety quelling mechanism that, whether for better or worse has been my constant companion. The Food Network happened to be in its relative infancy while I was finishing high school, and a hibernating interest awakened.
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A lot of noted worriers love baking. It’s a mid brain exercise, calling up some of your more complicated cognitive equations to partner with the ritual zen movements of creating something to eat. Cooking is the first ritual, one we all need and one we all infuse with love whether we realize it or not. Is there anything more loving than giving someone a big tin full of cookies? Sure, we know sugar is evil now, but in between the Omegas and the kale massages, our primitive honey seeking hunter gatherer brain is asking ‘but where is the honey?’

Kids tantalized by the glory of the season can get overwhelmed, and be full of Ferrero Rochers before anyone’s the wiser. Not that I’d know. Having a little tin of cookies you can have with tea after school in festive shapes means not being asked for Ice Cream in the dead of mid winter. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing.24313163_10155299697563737_6792725580191210636_o.jpg

These cookies are not vegan, but the substitutes for vegan fat options like coconut oil are one to one, and you may use all manner of things as an alternative binder. 3 TBSP of chia seeds, soaked, or 1/2 cup of that ‘new’ aquafaba, for example. Which is literally the bean juice from a can. I recommend chick pea, for minimal odor.

I am, however, using all Canadian non GMO milled wheat, and butter made over in Alliston about 40 minutes from here. Using what’s made nearby usually means your ingredients can last a little longer, and they’ve supported someone in your community.

I don’t ice cookies anymore, preferring instead to make a million little cookie sandwiches, filled with successful or failed ganache, lemon curd, freezer jam, ice cream, etc. Maybe you have a new idea for me?

For the Cookies

3 cups leveled flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon, or more
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 large egg

In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.

Beat egg and vanilla together. Using a mechanical mixture, or your own bare arms and forceful intentions, cream together the butter and sugar.

If you have a stand mixture, you can fit your machine with the dough hook and slowly add the flour one cup a time, while set to low. Otherwise, add and mix by hand, do not overmix. It will begin to clump together.

This dough can be tacky, so I turn it out into a floured glass pie plate to form into two discs. Wrap individually with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. At this time, you can also freeze your dough for later.

If you have a marble rolling counter, you’re winning. Otherwise, you can use a piece of wax paper to roll your cookies out to desired thickness. Thinner cookies will take less time to bake. We usually aim for 1/2 inch thick.

Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet, or silpat, or bare if you’re feeling lucky. Bake for 7-11 minutes at 350 degrees, again, depending on thickness. To err on the side of caution, just set your time for seven minutes and check the edges have set. Allow to cool on a wire rack before icing. If you are using sprinkles, you can press a few in that have shapes ahead of baking, but jimmies tend to melt.

Pflaumenkuchen, plum cake, German plum cake, plum cake recipe, German cake recipe, Christmas recipe, Christmas dessert, Yule dessert, Jul dessert

Pflaumenkuchen (German Plum Cake)

By Catherine Winter

My mother’s side of the family is a mix of German, Scandinavian, and Slavic, so our holiday traditions incorporated aspects from a number of different countries and cultures. Every year, we could look forward to the ritual of advent candles being lit, evergreens decorated (both indoors and outside!), and we could also rely on the exact same foods being served every single year. I enjoyed the gravlax, winced at the rotkohl, and always looked forward to what would become one of my all-time favourite desserts: this plum cake.

Pflaumenkuchen embodies everything I love in a dessert, particularly during the holidays. As I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, the plums’ tartness counteracts the sugar in the crust, and a single slice of this cake tends to have more fruit than pastry in it, which is just exquisite. Every time I bake it, I consider that we may indeed be fortunate to be able to buy armfuls of fruit at the grocery store year-round, but with the scarcity that would have existed during the winter in bygone eras, a cake like this—packed with butter and fresh fruit—would have been incredibly precious to my ancestors.

As such, it is quite perfect for a special holiday meal, and shared with loved ones.

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Pflaumenkuchen

3 pounds of dark blue/purple plums: prune or empress, pits removed, halved if small, quartered if larger
2 cups of whatever flour you like best
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
1⁄4 cup butter or Earth Balance
1 egg, beaten (or equivalent vegan egg substitute)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup milk (approximate, and milk can be dairy, soy, or almond)
1 additional tablespoon sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon for sprinkling on top

Preheat the your oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then cut the butter in with a fork. Do not blend too well at this point.

In another bowl, mix the egg and the almond extract together, then add the milk bit by bit, whisking thoroughly, until you have 3/8 of a cup of wet ingredients. Using a spoon, blend this mixture into the dry ingredients, then work them together with your hands, forming a soft dough. Should you find that the dough sticks to your hands quite a bit, add a tiny bit more flour as needed.

Making plum cake

Grease a 9 x 12 baking pan, and then use your hands to spread the dough across it, forming an even crust. If you have a bit of extra dough, just work it up the sides of the baking pan to form edges. Press the plum halves into the dough so that said dough pushes up between them a little bit, then sprinkle each with a pinch of the cinnamon sugar.

Bake for approximately one hour, or until the crust has gone just golden and the plums are fork-tender. Note that the plums will turn a deep magenta hue as they bake, and if you leave the cake in the oven too long, they’ll leak a lot of juice into the crust. You want the crust to be a bit soft, and the plums still maintaining integrity.

Pflaumenkuchen, plum cake, German plum cake, plum cake recipe, German cake recipe, Christmas recipe, Christmas dessert, Yule dessert, Jul dessert

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a good 30 minutes or so before serving. Cut into squares or slices, and serve as they are, or with a generous dollop of whipped cream or custard on top.

This really is a gorgeous dessert to have after Christmas/Yule dinner, but it’s just as wonderful for breakfast the next day.

Fröhliche Weihnachten/God Jul!

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Creative’s Calling. Will you Answer?

by MK Martin

December: the sleepiest of months. When the sun goes down before tea time, and the garden is full of hungry little mouths, looking for what’s leftover.DSC_0049.JPG

blackest night,
coldest dawn,
sharpest wind,
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Often, this month arrives with anxiety for me. I have never been very good at celebrations, often saying the wrong thing, or feeling out of place. While I enjoy some of the ritual of Christmas, the chaos and materialism get right under my skin, where it roils around and confuses the meaning of the season.

As a small child, I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas so many times, I broke the VCR. The reason being, I wanted to see his heart grow again and again. I found the idea fascinating, and wondered if my own heart was too small. I also spent many hours in the bathroom, pulling Grinch faces. I felt like the Grinch. He was overwhelmed by it all, and struggled to find meaning in it.

This year, in the spirit of creation and passion, I want to see how many of our dear friends, peers and inspirational humans we can get together to share their holiday styles. A little festival of what we take away, personally, from this time of year. Reading about each other, from each of our perspectives, might bring what can seem like an insurmountable maelstrom into focus, and provide a little breathing room between wrapping and planning and baking and decorating and calling and writing and, everything, in between.

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Traditions around the Tree

by Pamela Capriotti Martin

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I have no idea how my passion for Christmas began but I can venture a guess. When we were young, my mother worked hard at making Christmas special for my two brothers and me. She sewed matching outfits or nightgowns for me and my cousins Cindy and Nancy. My grandmother was Norwegian and she made lots of lefse and taught me to press the cookie dough in the sandbakkel tins (theyre a Norwegian almond flavored sugar cookie.) I spent endless hours searching through the Sears catalogue looking at pretty dresses I would love for Christmas. And my brothers and I would sneak a peek at around 2 a.m. Christmas morning when we were certain Santa had already put all our things under the decorated tree.

But the tree was a hassle for my father and the tree stand never actually held the tree appropriately upright. It fell at least once annually. My father absolutely hated putting up the tree but I looked at it as magical with the colored lights, handmade ornaments, and tinsel, carefully placed strand by strand by me and thrown like spaghetti by my younger brother toward the angel on top.

It was fine but I thought there must be more. I found “my Christmas in the movie, Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and I was certain thats how it was meant to be. On a little 16 inch black and white television I would wait for my movie every year on Channel 11, Movies with Mel. Then, I found out there were more magical films. Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas in Connecticut, Come to the Stable, and while we didnt have color, White Christmas because now I was certain if Bing Crosby was around, it really was the beginning of Christmas. (It should be noted here that my ringtone for Christmas is Mele Kalikimaka by Bing). I wasnt a big fan of Its a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol because they werent as happy as I presumed Christmas should always be.

I spent the fall semester of my senior year of college studying in Italy and the UK, arriving home Christmas Eve to no tree! I began to cry as Id been homesick for much of my time abroad and in my mind, the tree would be up, cookies baked, and hot chocolate would be ready. None of the above. My father dutifully put me in the car and off we drove to the barren tree lot. Only one tree remained and no one was there. A note was attached to the tree If you found this tree then it is free. And so it was, and I took it home, decorated it myself after finding all the decorations in the basement, and baked myself cookies vowing I would never ever not have a tree.

I started my own traditions and mini rules in my brain. My husband has willingly played along in what I consider important to our Christmas holidays as he has his own expectations which involve mince pies, skis, and plenty of tasty Christmas cookies despite his protestations that they have carbs.

Im pretty sure I passed some of my passion along to my four daughters although they all pass on watching Holiday Inn but may watch Love Actually or a marathon of Christmas Story instead. They have begun their own traditions of making ornaments, putting ribbons on the tree, having more than one tree with a theme and decorating their homes with joy.

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The Christmas Tree trimming begins for us immediately after Thanksgiving. (USA not Canadian) It was a daddy/daughter outing with mummy getting things ready at home. The girls were always told to choose a tree no taller than the tallest girl. And I swear it was always 9-10 feet tall. And oh, so beautiful. My husband and however many of his daughters were available, one then two, then four, and then three, then two and the last two years, just one, chose the tree. This year, our first without a daughter living at home just him and me.

Many years we spent Christmas skiing as a family, and yes, there was a second tree cut down by the girls and their father at a tree farm in Vermont. I pack one small box of lights and unbreakable ornaments and our little tree reflects the warmth of the family tradition we built together over time.

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This year, the tree is as tall as me. A little more petite than Im used to, but its perfect. I have ornaments for at least three trees that size, for you see, I also bought each girl a new ornament every year with the intent they would take their own ornaments with them when they moved away and put up their own trees with the families theyve created. I probably should have marked them though. Anyone want to figure out who belongs to which ornament?

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Herbal Chest Salve for Flu Season

By Catherine Winter

I can’t believe it’s the end of November already. So much has happened over the last few weeks that I was shocked to wake up this morning and discover that there’s only a week left before December rolls on in. Winter will arrive in full swing shortly thereafter, and with it will undoubtedly come the colds and flus that inevitably show up as soon as temperatures plummet.

Since I tend to eschew store-bought medicines in favour of those I make myself, I put together a few pots of this chest salve every year. Normally half a dozen people I care about will come down with bronchitis or a nasty head cold, and this rub does wonders to help people breathe. It also does wonders for asthma attacks, and I’ve even been known to massage it into my temples and forehead to ease migraines.

When it comes to making homemade salves, it’s important to use the highest quality ingredients you can afford. Much like how food nourishes your body, medicines that are meant to heal you on a cellular level should be as nurturing as possible.

eucalyptusoil

Chest Salve for Coughs, Colds, and Flus

I base my salve on a recipe in one of Rosemary Gladstar’s books, but have tweaked it as I’ve determined what works best for me. You may wish to make a few versions of it with different essential oil (EO) proportions, and see which you like best. These oils in particular have wonderful decongestant and antiviral properties, and also help you smell pretty fabulous when you’re feeling sickly and gross.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon beeswax pellets (you can use carnauba wax if you’d like to make yours vegan)
  • 12-15 drops eucalyptus EO
  • 10-12 drops pine EO
  • 8-10 drops camphor EO (use fewer drops if making this for children)
  • 5-7 drops peppermint EO
  • 5 drops rosemary EO
  • 2 drops wintergreen EO*(if this is for kids, eliminate wintergreen and increase peppermint – see the note at the end of this article)
  • A small, clean jar to pour it into (I use the 50ml amber glass jars from Mountain Rose Herbs for my salves, but mini jam jars can also be used in a pinch

salves

Preparation:

Heat your olive oil on very low heat in a small glass, ceramic, or enameled saucepan. You can also use a double-boiler method for this, as long as you’re careful not to let any water get into the oil mixture.

Once the oil has warmed, add in the beeswax pellets and use a small whisk or spoon to stir them around thoroughly. When they’re just about melted completely, remove the saucepan from the heat and keep stirring to ensure a homogeneous mixture.

Let this cool for just a minute or two before adding in the essential oils. Stir constantly as you mix them so they’re distributed evenly, then pour the mixture into your jar. You may need a spatula to scrape down the inside of the pot if it has cooled enough that the salve has started to congeal around the edges.

Close the jar’s lid and either set aside in a cool place to set, or place it right in the fridge. It’ll firm up a fair bit once cooled, but still be fluid enough that it will spread easily if you dip a finger into it. Take note of the texture: if you find it too squidgy, add more wax to your next batch, or add less wax if you find it a bit too firm.

Keeping it refrigerated doesn’t just extend its shelf life: it’s incredibly soothing to slather on a cool balm when you have a sore throat or if you’re sore and feverish. This salve works wonders to ease coughs and breathing difficulties when rubbed into one’s chest and upper back, and it’s great on the outer nostrils and across the forehead for sinus colds.

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*Note:  wintergreen oil is very powerful, and can be toxic in even moderate doses: if you choose to use this oil in your salve, be very sparing with it, and use it with care. Don’t add this oil to the salve if you’re planning to use it on childreneither omit it entirely, or use a couple of extra drops of peppermint or even a bit of lavender instead.

 

Photos by the author, and Flickr creative commons.

Our Pasta Fazoo

By Pamela Capriotti Martin

In my husband’s Italian/Irish household there were very specific dinners for every night of the week with some variations. Sunday was always a roast and his mother would make a sauce for the week ahead, which may have been used on a carne pizzaiola, or just pasta. Other nights there would be Nana potatoes and pork chops, minced beef and onions with a Bisto gravy served over mashed potatoes with a side of turnip or peas, and on Fridays, if there was money – fish and chips. If money was tighter than usual it would be chips and eggs or chips and beans. If the Sunday roast was a ham then the bone would be available for a nice pasta e fagioli later in the week. Like many households in the 1950’s in Canada and the U.S, this was a family. on a tight budget. Beans and pasta made for a great week night dinner and meat was meant to be stretched to feed a family of five.

Most of my children are fans of the soup, although M2 was never enamored as a child. M3 feels quite proprietary about her soup. She would order it in every Italian restaurant we frequented and then rate it. One chef took her to the restaurant kitchen and showed her how he made his version. She didn’t like the kidney beans. She was six. I’m pretty sure she told him he was ruining the soup. Another, Chef Frank would see the girls walking in Yorkville and would make it only for them since it wasn’t even on his upscale Italian menu. It’s Italian comfort food.

The dish has simple inexpensive ingredients and began as a peasant dish. John’s mother was from Naples and so while the word for beans is ‘fagioli’ in standard Italian, it’s ‘fasule’ in Neopolitan. So in this house, this simple family favorite, is affectionately known as “fazoo.”

I was introduced to my mother-in-law Giulia’s version of the soup when we traveled to John’s parents every Saturday for lunch. While I felt it was okay – I thought it lacked something. It became a discussion for us as to how we could give the soup more depth of flavor.

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John’s mother always used only water in hers and when she taught me to make it was specific that I was to use only four tomatoes from the can. The water in the soup was changed to chicken stock and I cut mine with water in about a 60/40 ratio, and John uses only chicken stock. If you don’t have that handy ham bone, we use pancetta. I find bacon too salty and don’t like the smoky flavor here, but would use it in a pinch and pull the salt back and use low-sodium chicken stock. Vegetarian M3 won’t use chicken stock or a meat product so substitutes vegetable stock.

This is one of those recipes that depends on who is making it and what you have in your pantry and fridge. I’m certain every Italian household has their own version and certainly John and I even have our own way of making this flavorful and filling soup. Little hands can pick basil leaves or grate cheese to make this a family event. This is my recipe. So, this is a starting point and is definitely open to change with the person who stirs the pot – of soup.

1 T extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
3 ounces pancetta (or bacon)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 t dried basil
1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (diced works well)
1 Parmesan cheese rind
2 cans (15 ounce each) Cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
8 ounces small pasta (ditalini, tubetini, conchigliette)
¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
Black pepper, salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, basil (not fresh), stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. 3. Add tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan.
4. Add cheese rind and beans; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, 10 minutes.
5. Add chicken broth, 2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt; increase heat to high and bring to boil.

6. Cook pasta separately and until tender, about 10 minutes. If you keep the pasta separate and put it in the bowl under the soup, then you can actually reheat the soup base the next day and just boil a new batch of pasta. If you add it to the soup, the pasta becomes flabby and honestly – ruins it.

7. Discard cheese rind. Off heat, stir in 3 tablespoons parsley; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into individual bowls over pasta portion; drizzle each serving with olive oil and sprinkle with a portion of remaining parsley. Serve immediately, passing grated Parmesan separately.

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soup, broth, bone broth, cup of soup, healing broth, healing bone broth

Bone Broth: A Nutrient-Dense, Healing Elixir

By Catherine Winter

Many people are discovering the wonders of bone broth, and with good cause: not only is this soup immensely soothing when you’re under the weather, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. Bones from animals that have been raised ethically (namely on organic feed and grass, and free-range living conditions) contain a startling amount of vitamins and minerals. By first roasting and then simmering those bones in water, all that goodness is leached out of them, and in turn, can be consumed by you.

Among the many benefits of bone broth, which include strengthening one’s immune system and promoting overall gut healing, it’s also ideal for reducing stress. When consumed mindfully, savouring each sip and picturing it healing one’s body, it becomes more than just a nourishing drink. It helps one stay in the present moment, which is as good for one’s emotional wellbeing as one’s physical health.

soup ingredients, soup vegetables

Ingredients:

3-4 pounds of beef bones: assorted meat and marrow bones are ideal. You can also toss in chicken bones, chicken feet, turkey wings… whatever you have on hand.
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large bunch of green onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 pinch of summer or winter savoury
1 teaspoon parsley
Sea salt

soup, soup recipe, bone broth, bone broth recipe, healing bone broth

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the bones in a heavy glass or ceramic baking dish and roast for about 45 minutes. The marrow should have softened or melted by this point, and that’s good! Pour the bones and any melty drippings into a large stock pot or slow-cooker.

Toss in the vegetables and herbs, and cover with about 2 inches of water. Add in the cider vinegar and a bit of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer for 6-10 hours. If you’re using a crock pot or slow-cooker, you can leave it for up to 24 hours. The longer you let this simmer, the more nutrients will be drawn out of the bones, and the flavours will develop beautifully.

Once done, allow to cool slightly and then strain through cheesecloth into another pot. Place this in the fridge until the excess fats and oils congeal into a thick mass on top, and scrape that off. (Reserve that fat: you can mix it with seeds and set it out in mesh bags for your wild bird friends.)

If your broth has gone gelatinous, don’t worry! That’s a good thing. It means that a lot of collagen has been drawn out of the bones, which is great for your own bone, joint, and muscle health. The broth will return to a liquid state once you’ve heated it up, and you can adjust the salt to taste before drinking it.

 

saving seeds, holding seeds, preserving seeds

How to Save Your Seeds

By Catherine Winter

As desperately as we try to cling to summer, especially since it’s so fleeting here in Quebec’s zone 4, the signs of autumn’s arrival are all around us. Trees are losing their leaves, and the temperature has dropped down to near freezing at night, so we’ve had fires blazing in the woodstove almost every evening. Summer is indeed coming to a close, which is prompting me to get off my arse to collect seeds for next year’s garden.

If you’ve grown some varieties that you really love, be sure to save a bunch of their seeds, both to grow again next year, and to trade with your friends/family. One cannot have too much biodiversity in one’s own vegetable garden, and it’s always wonderful to discover new varieties that those close to you have grown and love.

tomato seeds, heirloom seeds, heirloom tomato seeds, saving tomato seeds

Tomato Seeds

To save seeds from both cherry and full-size tomatoes, scraped the seeds out and place them in a very fine sieve. Rub gently to remove as much pulp as you can, and alternate between that and running them under water to rinse the pulp away. After you’ve done that, put the seeds in a clean jar filled with about half a cup of room-temperature water, and seal with the lid. Place that in a cool, dark cupboard and shake gently a couple of times a day. In about a week, you should see bubbles forming, and most of the seeds will have sunk to the bottom: those are the viable ones. Any of the floaters will be infertile, so toss those into the compost bin.

Rinse the viable seeds in your sieve again, then place them on a piece of paper to let them dry. After a day or so, you can either remove them from the paper and store them in a paper or glassine envelope, or store that entire piece of paper in a larger kraft paper envelope: come springtime, just tear or cut the paper into pieces with the seeds left in place, and plant the seeded paper directly into your soil.

saving beans, saving peas, saving dried beans, dry beans, dried beans

Beans and Peas

If you’ve discovered some fabulous varieties of beans or peas and would like to grow them again next year, that’s awesome: they’re incredibly easy to save. Just let some pods mature fully and dry in the sun as much as possible. Once the skins have started to shrivel up a bit, pick them and put them in a basket or paper bag for a week or so to dry out a bit more.
Then pop the beans/peas out of the dried casings and store them in paper envelopes or glass jars until next planting season. If they’re climbing varieties, you can even grow them indoors over the winter on strings or mesh hung over a sunny window.

Related: Create a Community Seed Bank

pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, saving pumpkin seeds, saving seeds

Pumpkin and Squash Seeds

You know those slippery, gooey innards that squash and pumpkins have? Pick as many seeds as possible out of that mess, and then place them in a colander or other strainer. Rinse them as clean as possible, then spread them on a screen (like an old, clean window screen) to dry in a warm place for a week or so. Place in a paper bag and store in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant them again.

(Be sure to save extra if you’d like to roast them as snacks, because who doesn’t love those, really?)

melon seeds, saving melon seeds, how to save melon seeds, cucumber seeds, saving cucumber seeds

Melon and Cucumber Seeds

Use the same technique as for the pumpkin and squash seeds, but try to harvest them from a plant that you’ve allowed to mature for as long as possible out in the garden. Seriously, wait until the thing is close to rotting before you harvest them. Why? Because the seeds within actually get more fertile and viable the longer leave the fruits attached to their stems. If you elevate the fruits on rocks or bricks (or even suspended via some fetching old stockings), the air circulation will delay their decomposition. Once the skin hardens, you’ll know the seeds are at their best and are ready to harvest.

dill seeds, fennel seeds, saving dill seeds, saving fennel seeds, herb seeds, saving herb seeds

Herb Seeds

Since herbs—whether medicinal or culinary—tend to have tiny little seeds, the best way to collect them is the brown paper bag technique.

Let a couple of plants mature and go to seed, and once the seed heads are drying nicely in the sun, pop paper bags over them and tie them securely in place with some twine. Use scissors or a knife to sever the stem a handspan or so beneath the twine, then hang the bag upside-down in a dry place. As the plant dries within the bag, the seed casings will shrink, releasing the seeds into the bottom of the bag.

 

After a couple of weeks, shake the bag well to release as many seeds as possible, then cut the bag open and pour the seeds into envelopes.

Keep your seeds in a cool, dry place away from direct light and any form of moisture, and you’ll have a plethora of plants to play with next spring!

 

Photos via Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons

family sunday soup, sunday soup, beef soup, beef and vegetable soup

FTW Kitchen: Family Sunday Soup

By Pamela Capriotti Martin

I grew up in a family without many food traditions. How could that be for a girl with an Italian last name? My mother was Norwegian, and while my grandmother was a marvelous cook, I don’t think my mother ever really cared to cook. Or bake. She loved the convenience foods that came to be in the 50’s and 60’s and she worked full-time from the time I was 4. Dinner was never a priority although it should be noted, we definitely ate dinner every night.

When I was a senior in high school, my mother broke her leg and was unable to walk without crutches for months as it required surgery. I took over the cooking. Totally. And the shopping. I had a cookbook and taught myself to cook before cooking shows existed. I worked my way through the book to the delight (lasagna) and annoyance (eggplant parmesan) of my brothers and father.

Onions

When I married my Italian/Irish husband – he loved cooking. So we cooked. And created. And Sunday has always been my day to cook. Pot roasts, roasted chicken, buttermilk pound cake, apple pie, and the family favorite – Sunday Soup. Because Sunday is about family. It’s about comforting food. And it’s about the joy of fresh ingredients melding together to create a family tradition of love.

The recipe for Sunday Soup, so named by my girls, originated in a cookbook I bought from the Cookbook Store in Toronto in 1986. Today, we can find recipes on the internet in moments, but not so in the 80’s. This soup and so many other family recipe traditions we have built as a family is about my daughters – who all are wonderful cooks – and the memories we created as we cooked together. Some days we learned fractions by measuring. Some days we created disasters that looked better in our minds than it did on a plate or in a bowl. And some days we logged time just simply being together creating, experimenting, and eating the spoils.

It should be noted that this is a full meal soup accompanied by a crusty bread, a little cheese, and possibly, just possibly a homemade apple pie – hence the apples in the picture.

This is our family’s: Sunday Soup (adapted from Soups and Stews by California Culinary Academy)

Beef-soup-ingredients

2 T Olive Oil
2 1/2 – 3 lb beef short ribs (bone in)
2 medium onions (I like Vidalia but a white or yellow onion works as well)
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic (grated)
1 red pepper seeded and chopped
1 – 2 t chili powder (this is the ingredient that makes this soup sing)
1 large can/box chopped tomatoes
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
4-6 small red potatoes quartered (scrubbed but not peeled)
1 bay leaf
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t dried marjoram
8 cups chicken stock (or water but the stock gives it greater depth)
1 cup small pasta
1/2 cup chopped parsley

  1. Salt and pepper short ribs. In a 6 – 8 quart Dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and brown short ribs well on all sides. Add onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper around ribs, stirring occasionally until vegetables are limp. Sprinkle with chili powder.
  2. Add tomatoes and liquid, half the carrots, bay leaf, salt, pepper, marjoram and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat, and simmer until meat is tender (3 – 4 hours.)
  3. Remove and discard bay leaf. Remove short ribs; when cool, remove meat from bones. Cut meat into bite size pieces, return to soup discarding fat and bones. Soup can be made to this point, when at room temperature, place in fridge overnight.
  4. At this point, I add the remaining carrot and potatoes and bring it to a boil, reduce heat until new vegetables are tender.
  5. While soup is finishing, boil salted water, add pasta. When pasta is cooked al dente, drain, don’t rinse. Place ladle of pasta in bottom of soup bowl.
  6. Taste soup, adjust salt if needed, add parsley and serve over pasta.

NB: This is a forgiving soup in terms of adding vegetables – more, less, whatever you like or have on hand. I often add turnip or rutabaga and definitely peas are generally put in at the end to give it more color.