Charcoal

Friday, June 25, 2010

When we got married we bought the usual $250 gas grill from Canadian Tire. It's a barbecue right? The ultimate cooking. Outdoors. Big pieces of meat. It's so rustic you can almost hear your caveman-ancestor's electric starter clicking.



Day after cold winter day, I stared into the metal beast, past the smoke and right at the perforated tubes pumping out propane gas. And I never wondered, "why aren't I just cooking this in the house?"

I was raised using gas grills and that's what a barbecue was. I had seen comedies about people squirting too much lighter fluid in those round barbecues, but I had never really thought about them. Then I started watching the show Jamie At Home, in which Jamie Oliver basically lives the life I dream of, with a big garden and outdoor oven. In one episode he digs up an old roasting pan, fills it with sticks, leaves and charcoal and then lights it.

And since that moment, I haven't touched my gas grill.



I ended up buying a small kettle-style charcoal barbecue from a department store for $15, and it's finally reached the end of its life this past weekend after 2 and a half years of delicious service. And by years, I mean all year long.

I highly recommend making/buying a charcoal grill, and I'm sorry, but it's not harder or more labour intensive to use. Well, maybe a bit, but if you buy good meat and vegetables, it's hard to justify throwing them over a propane flame.

My Guide to charcoal barbecuing:

1. Don't spend over $40 on one, better yet, find an old roasting pan or stock pot and cover it with an old cooling rack from the kitchen.

2. Don't ever use lighter fluid. The time it takes to burn the chemicals off and make it safe to cook won't justify how easy it is to douse it in petroleum.

3. Buy an electric starter. Bury it in the coals and plug it in. In five minutes it'll be blazing.

4. Buy sustainably raised charcoal or buy charcoal briquettes (which are made from compressed wood shavings. Make sure they're only bonded with a natural product.)

5. Once it's lit, let it get nice and hot. If you just have red-hot coals in one spot, mix it around.

Spelt Waffles

Thursday, June 24, 2010

For fathers day I decided to make some waffles for breakfast. I always make our waffles from scratch using 100% whole wheat flour and a variety of grains or seeds that I grind up.
This time, I decided to try making them using some light spelt flour from the Brant Flour Mills.


Spelt is not gluten free, but since the spelt protein is more soluble it is easier to digest.

Because the spelt is more water soluble you need to use a little less liquid than you would when cooking with wheat flour. We couldn't tell the difference, they were as fluffy and delicious as ever. And we took one step closer to our goal of avoiding the supermarket. Getting ingredients local, if you can, is amazing. And it's usually cheaper when you get it right from the source, and you don't have to worry about how far your product has travelled. It's also nice to be able to shake hands with the person who grows or prepares the food that you will eat.

A word of warning - I don't always use exact measurements when I cook, I like to get the gist of how things are made, and then change it up. I will do my best to translate it into a recipe that you can follow at home.


Waffles

In a bowl mix together:
• around 1 1/2 cups of spelt flour
• 1/2 cup partially ground flax seeds
• 1 Tbs baking powder (I use Bob's Red Mills Aluminum Free Baking Powder)

In a separate bowl mix:
• 2 organic free range eggs, beaten
• 1 1/2 cups organic whole milk
• 2 Tbs honey
• 1/4 cup melted butter

I also add a lot of vanilla, and cinnamon.

Make a little well in the centre of the dry mixture and slowly stir in the wet ingredients.

Stir to combine.

Heat your waffle iron and follow directions accordingly.

We topped our waffles with fresh local strawberries, organic bananas and blueberries.

And of course, Local Maple Syrup!

So next time you are in the grocery store putting a box of frozen waffles into the cart, please reconsider. They are easy to make at home and so delicious. All you have to do is invest in a good waffle iron. I sometimes make a double batch and freeze the leftovers, then pop them in the toaster for a quick and easy breakfast that you can feel good about.

Or toast them for a tasty dessert topped with ice cream and berries. Or chocolate. Or berries and chocolate.

Field Trip - Brant Flour Mills

Monday, June 21, 2010


Brant Flour Mills is a flour mill that is just around the corner from my parents. I remember, when I was a kid, my mom would stop there to buy a big bag of flour, but I never went in. I'd walk over to the dam and the little waterfall.


McKenzie creek was first dammed in the early 1800s for a mill that ran until this electric one was built in the 1970s. The heart of the place is the mill room (below) that has 6 milling machines. Each machine consists of two large corduroy-textured rollers that rotate against each other at different speeds, grinding the grain. The pipes coming out of the top vacuum the coarse flour into a sifting machine.


All of the rough bits are sifted out (below left) and then fed back up into the next roller. When it's finally milled to its proper spec, it's bagged by hand.


Volker Storjohann (below) specializes in rye and spelt flour, both conventional and organic. Spelt is an ancient form of wheat, so you can use it almost as you would an all-purpose flour, while rye is much heavier, has less gluten and needs to be coaxed into rising.


If you want to buy some flour from him, you'll need to buy at least 20 kilos of it (his smallest bag). He recommends splitting a bag with a group of people. A bag will last around 24 weeks (6 months), but you could, as a last resort, put some in the freezer to keep much longer. All of his conventional rye and spelt grains are sourced locally, while sometime he needs to bring organic grains in from Manitoba if supplies are limited.

Home Sweet Cherries

Wednesday, June 16, 2010



So we are among the privileged few who have a sweet cherry tree in our yard! They are so red and sweet and delicious! Thank you to whomever planted it there.



The first year we were in the house we got a lot of cherries, but the past few, we got hardly any. The tree grew, but it barely produced. And what it did produce was quickly snatched by the birds and squirrels. This year, thanks to a book I got him for his birthday, Jesse learned how to properly prune the cherry tree, and what a difference! We have more cherries on one branch than we did on the entire tree last year!



We were all over the tree on the weekend harvesting our fruit, and it felt really good. It felt right. Living to sustain life. Working together as a team to feed each other. Being resourceful and eating from our land, however small it is.



It was so cute to see our 2 and a half year old climb the ladder, pick a cherry, take out the pit and feed it to his 1 year old sister.


Ancaster Farmers Market

Today was the opening day of the Ancaster Farmers Market. Of course I forgot and went to the grocery store this morning, but I still went and supported our farmers. More importantly, I made some contacts with local farmers and I'm learning about CSA (Community Shared Agriculture).

The kids were excited to see a goat and get some orange balloons; unfortunately we lost one as I was running home, pulling the kids in the wagon through the pouring rain.

It feels good, knowing where your food comes from, not using any gas to get to the market, supporting local farmers, helping to preserve farmland, and reducing our ecological footprint!

My 'problem' is that I go to the market and I see all this amazing stuff and always think to myself... "I could make that!" I love learning how to make all this stuff.


This bread is made by de la terre bakery. It is an organic multi-seed sourdough that is made without adding yeast.

So here is the deal with sourdough. First you have to make a starter. This is a mixture of flour and water that you allow to ferment. As it ferments, it creates a "wild yeast." When you are ready to make your bread you blend the starter with some flour and make dough. The yeast propogates, and leavens your bread.

This is how it's been done for thousands of years. Well before you could go to the supermarket and purchase yeast. And this is our goal, to get out of the supermarket, to become more resourceful. To get back to the basics.

Yeast was one of the ingredients we were wondering how to get locally. And now we know how to make our own. I look forward to posting our 100% local bread!


I am especially excited about fresh local garlic. Nothing is better than fresh garlic. You can eat the cloves and cut up the leaves into a salad. And then there is the scape - As the bulb grows and matures, the stalk lengthens and the leaves grow, and then, out of the centre, the scape grows, like a shoot. It has a lot of flavour, less pungent than the bulb, and can be used in stir fry, or simply blanched as you would a green bean.

Some of our garden.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Leeks. You can read chervil, but they're leeks. I reused an old tag, with chervil in pencil, and wrote leeks with a big, bright sharpie, and ironically, the sharpie washed away.

We've got a few ideas for these. Soups of course, but I found a recipe for pickling them too, so we can still enjoy them in the winter.

Behind the sage plant is one of our three garden boxes. They're 3'x5' made from 2 2x10s. This sage plant wintered very well, along with some oregano. I'm just beginning to learn what these plants look like so this year is the first year I didn't hack all the good stuff up in the spring.

These are some carrots, mixed purple and orange, with some bell pepper plants in the background. We started all of these from seed. Carrots come in many colours, but I heard that orange carrots really became popular in the Netherlands to honour the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange.

One of the plants that over-wintered well is our dill. It regrew as an annual (by re-seeding itself) and not just in one spot, but all along our front yard. I'm trying to let it grow wherever I see it. The biggest plant is growing up here between our front steps and the sidewalk.

Other stuff we planted are chili peppers, heirloom and cherry tomatoes, pie pumpkins, sweet baby watermelons, onions, cucumbers, tons of greens including spinach, kale, swiss chard and some lettuce mixes, sunflowers, and one of the most exciting things - peanuts! The peanuts will get their own post when they're ready.

Home Made Bread

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


We made this bread made from a "wet dough" so, no kneading involved! It was so easy. The recipe came from the book "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day"

Basically you prepare a big batch of dough, let it rise for 2 hours, and then either bake it or store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks! We love the 'no-preservatives', and who doesn't love freshly baked bread?

Next is to experiment with adding different grains and seeds, and subtracting white flour. Oh, and then routine of making it regularly.