Knit one, knead a little

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It has been a really long time since I have written much at all.  Aside from Instagram blips here and there I really haven’t found myself with the urge to write.  Perhaps a lack of inspiration, the winter blahs and a bit of just not knowing which direction I am heading have held me back.

In January my right arm began to ache from constantly knitting in awkward positions and by early February it forced me to stop and pause.  Being away from knitting left me feeling exceptionally displaced – now what?  I needed a way to slow myself down and clearly knitting was becoming more of a hurried to do that I was causing myself pain.

In search of something new to try out I spent far too many hours on Instagram and Pinterest.  I dabbled in a few new hobbies but most were duds (to me not in life) and quite costly in a time when I really need to do my best to keep things affordable.  Single income living for a family of four is incredibly challenging.  Factoring in the above failed attempts and need to practicality I narrowed my search down.

Cue the bread baking madness that has consumed my life!  I got my hands on a copy of Bonnie Ohara’s book Bread Baking for Beginners, grabbed some of the basics from her super helpful supply list located in her profile on Instagram (linked to her website that is full of info) and just kind of dove in to it all.  The book eased me in to the art of making bread, instructing in a way that just makes sense to my directionally challenged mind.

One by one I worked my way through Bonnie’s book while following her journey on Instagram and something about it all just felt… like home.  Suddenly I had bread goals – sourdough and beyond!  Visions of feeding my family and friends deliciously healthy breads baked with love.

I never anticipated baking much more then muffins for my children but our budget wasn’t allowing the fresh handmade breads I wanted my family to enjoy and this was the solution – making it myself!  I was already accustomed to sourcing local foods including flours from places like Oak Manor and Arva Flour Mills so I knew I had basic good quality nutrient dense ingredients on hand to give it my absolute best shot.

One by one I worked my way through Bonnie’s book while following her journey on Instagram.  Something about it all – the way she communicates her passion and her story, her love for community – all of it… it feels like home.  Suddenly I have bread goals as I work through sourdough experiments and beyond!  Visions of feeding my family and friends deliciously healthy breads baked with love.

I’ve since been able to return to knitting and am now happily balancing the pair with all of my other life duties.  I am incredibly thankful for stumbling in to the bread life and will continue to grow and challenge myself with it as I do with knitting.

I have no idea where I am headed in any of it but I am thoroughly enjoying every stitch and every fold as I go along.

If you have any interest in bread baking I highly recommend Bread Baking for Beginner’s.  This is my honest to goodness opinion with no strings attached.  Bonnie is good people and deserves all the love.

JESSICA

Links to the above mentioned businesses:

Alchemy Bread Website

Arva Flour Mill Website

Oak Manor Website

* Both Arva and Oak Manor Flour can be purchased direct from the businesses or from retailers such as the Mustard Seed Coop in Hamilton, Ontario.  Cake and Loaf Bakery in Hamilton also carries a handful of Oak Manor items in their Dundurn shop.

 

 

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CSA love + Matz Fruit Barn

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As some of you know I have been participating in Matchbox Garden’s CSA for a few years now.  I love the weekly drive out to Caledonia and throughout the summer the kids and I stop and wander along the river enjoying the scenery before we pick up our share.

The last two years Hanna has offered some bonus add ons such as Stasis Preserves, Lovell Spring’s Trout and Matz Fruit Barn (located in Port Dover this is a sweet little shop with a whole lot to offer).  As much as I would love to support ALL of them, I chose to add Matz Fruit Barn to our veggie share knowing the fruit would be devoured by us all!

The season started out with the usual rhubarb and strawberries and as the fruits cycled through we have had such a wide variety – from Gooseberries and raspberries to peaches and coronation grapes (a solid fave of mine) – there is always something for everyone!

Matchbox Garden experienced winter squash crop loss due to flooding in the spring so Matz will be providing it for the CSA shares!  So don’t be fooled by the name, there are loads of veggies available too!  The butternut squash from my share this week was huge and is about to become a great big batch of soup for dinner tonight and freezing for later!

One thing I really love about local farmers is how they work with one another when things like crop failure occur.  Because every year it happens on some level, after all we cannot control mother nature and she can be a finicky gal 😉 .

We are 3/4 of the way through the 2017 CSA season and I look forward to seeing what the last leg of our produce filled adventure sends our way!

If CSAs aren’t your thing I encourage you to check out Matz Fruit Barn directly, it is so important we support our local farms for a multitude of reasons and this is a gem among them!

Enjoy this lovely fall day!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer eats year round

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How is it almost September?  I seriously have no idea how this happened!  Well I do but you know what I mean.  With late summer comes some serious food storage business here, though this year I cut back on what I am saving based on last years experimentation.

I started in July with Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries – all of these I washed, flash froze and than popped in to freezer containers for use in smoothies and baked goods all winter long!

Corn and green beans were next on the list and those I froze as well.  Both of these I blanch which is a bit of a pain 😉 but really easy.  I prefer to use frozen kernels of corn in the winter vs cobs so I cut the corn off before blanching.  This also saves a lot of space in the freezer because there are no bulky cobs to accommodate.  Half of the green beans I cut to make things easier when it comes to soups and such.

*Not everyone blanches these things but I do, it helps preserve both the flavour and colour by stopping the enzymes in their tracks!  Do your research to see what is best and what meets food safety guidelines*

The last item I will be freezing is peppers, I’m expecting them soon!  They are really easy to store.  I just wash and cut them up in to desired sizes, toss them in to freezer containers and they are ready to add to chilis, soups, stews etc.  Last year was the first year I did this – Natalie and Stam Farms recommended it! – and I used them up rather quick it worked so well!

The only food I bothered canning this year was tomatoes!  33 jars of them to be exact.  I like to keep a large amount on hand because they are so versatile.  I didn’t add any herbs to them, I will add herbs I have dried from my garden and garlic I have saved from local farmers as needed.

As for where these foods I have stored came from?  All wonderful local places of course!  Most organic but not all – sometimes the budget just cannot reach an additional $30 for a bushel of something.  And this year things like tomatoes have really suffered thanks to late blight which also claimed the lives of all my plants so naturally the cost is going to be higher.

But for the most part the organic items I have gotten my hands on – with a little help from my friend Krista at Harrington Lane Farms 😉 – have been the same or better priced than the conventional bulk items.  Like the beans I just did.  Best beans ever.  SO GOOD!  And they were from a co-operative type farm system Guelph way.

I’m so happy that much of my summer favourites will be enjoyed by my family through much of winter.  It’s a true labour of love but as someone who believes strongly in supporting our local food growers I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way!

Happy Monday!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

 

Honest Field Farms

 

IMG_9562I’ve been following Honest Field Farms (Erin, Ontario) for quite some time, I really enjoy their Instagram stories and watching their farming adventure unfold.  Also, being a dog lover, I really appreciate all the hard work Rosie the farm dog does 😉 .

This past week I was lucky enough to get my hands on a large CSA share so I too could experience all of the local deliciousness others get to throughout the growing season!  The entire experience was so pleasant – from communication to the beautiful bounty, it was all wonderful.  As an added bonus I was able to pick up my share from Harrington Lane Farms in Waterdown, which is always a favourite spot to shop.

This share included familiar items like carrots, cucumber and dill but also kohlrabi which I had zero experience with.  This is part of the CSA fun, trying things I would never consider, it forces me to get creative in the kitchen.  After some research, I decided to make fritters with them and they were so good!  Maybe next time I can convince my children to enjoy them too 😉 .

Honest Field Farms can be found at the Waterdown, Milton and Georgetown Farmers markets if CSAs are not your thing but if you are interested in a CSA program, this is definitely a farm worthy of your support.

Happy shopping!

cbde7-jessica