Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas! The Gifts go to the Dogs.

I wish everyone a very happy holiday season! I've been so busy - we are hosting 15 people in our new house for dinner tomorrow - so I don't have any festive photos to share. I did take a picture of my yard with the newly fallen snow several weeks ago which I think is lovely.

Ok, so mostly lovely. It will be better once the
fence height is added to and the trees are back in
leaf! But the neighbours are nice and the
snow is beautiful.

Now, we must not forget our loyal canine companions this time of year! So, a batch of dog cookies extraordinaire were in order for our Hazel, aka Ruckusbutt.

Dog Cookies

1/3 Cup (75ml) butter (or margarine), softened
3 Cups (750 ml) whole wheat flour
1/2 Cup powdered skim milk
1/4 tsp (1ml) garlic powder (optional)
3/4 Cup (175 ml) water, room temp
1 egg, beaten
~you can add around 1/4 to 1/2 Cup of "something else". I add peanut butter because dogs just love it but I only have the natural kind with just peanuts, no salt or sugar. Hazel thinks that's just fine. I also add a tablespoon or so of herbs, usually parsley.

1. In large mixing bowl, cream margarine and flour together.
2. Dissolve powdered milk (and garlic, if using) in water and whisk in egg.
3. Make a well in flour mixture and gradually stir in egg mixture until well blended.
4. Knead dough on floured surface, about 3-4 minutes, until dough sticks together and is easy to work with.

5. With a rolling pin, roll dough to between 1/4" and 1/2" thickness.
6. Cut with either cookie cutters or into rectangles appropriately sized for your dog and put on greased cookie sheet.
7. Bake at 325F (160C) for about 50 minutes.

Cool well and put in storage container. Keeps well for several weeks.

I guarantee these cookies will be gobbled up by every dog.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For the Love of Food

There is nothing like fresh produce. A feast for all the senses. Over the years, I've been trying to make smarter choices when it comes to the produce I buy. It started by trying to purchase more organic produce, as finances would allow.  As it happened, organic bananas are what really impressed me (try them sometime, the difference is incredible...not that
 bananas are the most responsible choice out there anyway...)  Aside from finances, I didn't go too crazy because the certification and oversight just wasn't there, so you could be paying more but not really know what you are getting. It is still not perfect but there have been improvements.

Then, about three years ago, as my awareness grew and I started looking into things further, I started thinking: do I really need red peppers that were grown in Chile? So I began to pay attention to where things were grown and tried to choose produce that was  either (in order of preference): grown locally, in my province (or neighbouring province, I am close to the border), or in my country. I still purchased limes from Mexico and yes, peppers from Chile or Holland. Don't even ask me about the wine (oh alright, usually Italy).

Ontario is an amazing province for its agriculture but even the southern parts have a fairly short growing season. So I didn't get fanatical, I just tried to make informed decisions. I bought more turnips, beets, celeriac, and carrots during the winter and passed by the peppers more often. The citrus fruit, I rationalized, at least came from the same continent. I still use that rationalization; I really think I need my oranges! And when you think about it, I AM closer to some states than I am to some provinces within Canada.

All this to say that I'm not perfect and, truthfully, I don't aim to be. Our distribution system and, I admit, sense of entitlement do not make perfection a realistic target. But I try. I make conscious decisions 

Things get complicated.  Consider, what has less environmental impact, what is more sustainable:
1) produce grown locally, in the "off" season, in a greenhouse, with the watering systems and fertilizers that need to go along with such an operation, or
2) produce grown further away, in the dirt, likely with less need for 'artificial' irrigation but will need to be transported.

Hmm. Also consider the respective sales agents for these two "products". One is likely a farmers market, the other a big-chain supermarket. And many countries depend on the export of certain products, including us.  Ugh. You can't win sometimes.

And because you can't win, I decided I would just always try to do the best I can. I love food and believe strongly in supporting local farmers for many reasons. I've accepted that these two are sometimes at odds with one another. I made the BEST pad thai a couple weeks ago. There is no way I could do that without tamarind, lime, fish sauce, or palm sugar. Not sure I could give that kind of thing up.

One step in the right direction has been to get regular produce deliveries from a local organic farmer, Bryson Farms. These guys have a great system down. They deliver to your door year round. I've been wanting to get on "the list" for over a year but they had some issues a little over a year ago. Since we were looking to buy a house I put off following up with it until we moved. I've been on a waiting list since July and last week we got our first delivery. Yesterday was our second delivery and I was so excited to get home to see what goodies we had.

Starting from the bottom left, moving clockwise (roughly):
Parsnips, red & golden beets, multi-coloured carrots,
turnips, red & white onions, sweet potatoes/yams,
fingerling potatoes (large & mini), pea shoot micro-greens,
garlic, squash, and full circle with kale beside the parsnips.
There is also a bag of mixed greens between the mini potatoes and pea shoots.

Yum! And we get to do it all again next week!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A little of this...and a little of that!

Nothing super interesting to report, I've just been very busy.

Had an amazing ride last night on Brumby! It was our best yet, the canter work is improving so much. And I think I might actually be developing half-decent hands. I was beginning to wonder if that would ever happen, lol. Ah, riding is so much a lesson in patience (as you all know very well!)

I got to watch Sandi Patterson (long time groom to the great Big Ben, is (or was) barn manager at Jill Henselwood's Juniper farms, and is a well respected coach) give a private lesson this week. It was a pretty neat experience and she is a very nice person. She showed me her method of counting stride lengths between jumps, nothing like learning basics from a master! Lol.

Let's see...what else has been going on? Oh, we has a fan installed in the bathroom but the electrician couldn't do the whole job so we had to finish it. This involved putting a whole in the roof - yikes!
Everything worked out great though!

I made a yummy vegetarian chilli

And Hazel napped while showing off her lovely teeth!

That's all I have to report. I am going to buy a new pair of breeches this afternoon - woo hoo!