Now I know what you’re all thinking.  Really?  Applesauce?  How boring!  How bland and uninteresting!  We want excitement!  Well…applesauce is about the most exciting thing I’ve done in awhile, besides the pumpkin puree, which I already talked about.  Applesauce can be exciting.  And easy.  Honest!

First, buy apples.  I used Royal Gala and Macintosh for mine, I prefer the batch that is royal gala only.  It’s sweeter.  I also used my slowcooker for this, because I’m lazy.


6lbs apples, cored and quartered (leave the peel on!)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup water

sugar to taste

1. Put cored and quartered apples into the slowcooker (better be a big one!).  Add the water and lemon juice.  Cover and cook on high 3-4 hours.  Once apples are soft and mushy, puree with an immersion blender.  You could use a regular blender or food processor as well if you like, but an immersion blender is more fun.  Add sugar to taste.

I was lazy this year and froze my applesauce instead of canning it.  You could process jars of applesauce in a hot water bath for 15 minutes before storing in a cool, dry place if you really wanted to, but I decided to freeze it in jars instead.  You could also freeze it in ziploc bags if you wanted.  Unsweetened applesauce is great for baking, you can replace up to 1/2 of the oil or margarine called for in a recipe with applesauce.


Raspberry Vinaigrette

I’ve been so busy with school and work I’ve barely been cooking, let alone making anything worth posting about.  The most I’ve done on the weekends is bake bread, make applesauce, apple butter, and pumpkin puree.  I did pickle some hot peppers and have a bunch of little hot pepper plants growing like weeds under my grow light.  My rosemary is finally growing thanks to a friend’s organic fertilizer (thanks Claude!) and both lemon trees are doing well, although one of them is no longer a resident of my apartment.  I am trying to sprout some apple seeds currently and would totally plant a pumpkin seed when I puree the last 3 pumpkins I have if I wasn’t terrified of it taking over my livingroom.

On non-food related news, I have a real livingroom now!  Claude and Dallas were generous and wonderful enough to give me their entertainment unit and were at my place for about 2 hours on Monday evening helping me move everything around.  My computer desk is now in my bedroom and then tv, ps3 and ps2 are all in the livingroom on the entertainment unit.  I can now look for a coffee table and end tables!  So excited! 

Back to food…I have been searching for months for a salad dressing I love that I can make at home.  I finally found it this weekend.  I made a homemade raspberry vinaigrette for our thanksgiving supper and I adore it.  I’ve never liked storebought raspberry vinaigrettes before so it was surprising.  It’s simple to make and I have all the ingredients at home, amazingly.  It keeps well in the fridge, and just needs a shake or whisk to put it back together for serving. 

Raspberry Vinaigrette

2 tbsp homemade raspberry sauce (basically try to make raspberry jam but don’t add enough sugar or pectin for it to set, lol)

1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

1 tbsp White Vinegar

1/8 cup Olive Oil

1/8 cup Canola Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Wisk the raspberry sauce and vinegars together.  Slowly drizzle in the oils, whisking constantly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stores well in the fridge, just shake or whisk before serving.

Thinking Ahead to Winter Pt2 – Canning

This is the 2nd part of what is going to end up being more than 2 parts all about preparing items for the winter ahead.  The key to all of this is to get as fresh and local as you can find or afford.  While traditionally Canning is thought of as a fall activity, there are many things in season now that can be prepared.  If you do things as the fruit or vegetable comes into season, you’ll be doing a bunch of little projects as you go instead of trying to attempt one big marathon session of canning, the thought of which makes my feet hurt already! 

Canning involves a lot more preparation then freezing does.  If you want to be able to keep the items you make, safely, in your cupboards or root cellar, they have to be processed in a water bath before putting them away.  The main items you’ll need to successfully can your own jam, pickles, spaghetti sauce, or whatever else you can think of are the following:

– Large, Heavy bottomed pot for cooking sauces or jams in. 

– Jars.  My favorite sizes are jam jars, pint jars (2 cups or 500ml), and quart jars (4 cups or 1000ml)  Jars can be bought at Canadian tire for a decent price or you can search kijiji or MCC/Value Village for cans.

-Lids.  Canning lids come in 2 parts.  There’s a metal ring that screws on and a metal snap lid with a rubber seal on the bottom.  If you buy your jars brand new, they will come with both parts.  Otherwise, both the metal rings and snap lids can be bought at Canadian tire, sometimes dollar stores.  It’s best to replace snap lids after one use, although if I’m just canning soup without processing it and am keeping it in the fridge I will re-use them.

– Tongs.  Metal tongs will help you lift the hot jars in and out of the water bath before and after processing.  It also helps you grab the lids and rings from the hot water before putting them on the jars.

– Funnel.  Really handy if you don’t want to make a huge mess when trying to ladle your hot jam/sauce into the jars!

– Cookie Sheet.  Makes moving the jars in and out of the oven that much easier…and we like easy.

– Canner.  A canner is a large pot used to process jars in.  It usually comes with a rack and is cheaper to buy then a stock pot.  Although I suppose Alton Brown would be upset with me for buying an item that isn’t very multipurpose.  Oh well.

The general steps to canning involve heating (read, sterilizing) your jars in a 200 degree oven, heating (sterilizing) your lids and rings in a small sauce pan of boiling water, cooking your jam/sauce as per the recipe, ladling it into the hot jars, wiping off the edges, placing the lids and rings on the jar and then processing it in a canner filled with boiling water for the recommended time.  The jars are usually left in the water for about 5-10 minutes after you’ve removed it from the heat and then removed to the side.  Let the jars sit on the counter for about 24 hours, check the seals to make sure it’s sealed properly and then store in a dark, cool place for about 1 year.  I find it very simple, the most tedious part of the entire thing is preparing your fruit or veggies for cooking. 

The first item I canned was a batch of cherry preserves.  I’ve never had cherry preserves or used cherry preserves but it sounded like a good idea at the time and bing cherries were on sale for under $2/lb.  I brought 4lbs home with me and proceeded to de-step and pit all 4 lbs of cherries.  It took me about an hour by myself.  Two days later and my fingers are still stained.  (!)  3lbs of cherries were turned into preserve and the other lb were frozen for use in the winter, probably for smoothies.  Since I had already removed the pits, I didn’t want to just eat them.  I ended up with about 3 pint jars of preserves.  I don’t think I let them cook down far enough, cause they seem fairly runny in the jars but I don’t have any fruit float and you can see cherries throughout the syrup.  Although since I’ve never HAD cherry preserves, I don’t know how thick it’s supposed to be!

Simple Cherry Preserves

3 lbs sweet or sour cherries, stems and pits removed

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup bottled lemon juice

1. Place the cherries in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan.  Add a splash of water and bring to a boil.  Crush cherries to release the juice. 

2. Add sugar and mix to dissolve.  Then add lemon juice and stir.  Bring to a nice boil and let it go for about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until desired gel is reached.  Turn off heat and let fruit sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release any trapped air (helps prevent fruit from floating to the top of the jars).  Skim off any foam.

3.  Ladle into hot pint jars.  Wipe the edges clean and place a new seal lid on top.  Screw the ring down until just tight.  Process in water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove lid and remove pot from heat, let stand for 5 minutes.  Remove jars from pot, let sit on the counter for 24 hours. Check seals and store in dark cool place for about a year.

It really is that easy!

Weekend Biking

The last bike I purchased was in the mid-ninety’s…I can’t remember the exact year, but it was about ’94-’95.  It’s a 15 speed, 20″, men’s Norco Cherokee bike in dark green.  It’s also been sitting in my parents shed for the last 7-8 years.  The last time I touched it, I got one of the tubes replaced and the tire was still going flat so I gave up.  I was also never in an area that was really good for bike riding…downtown Winnipeg and Edmonton are scary enough as a pedestrian!  I suppose Kitimat, BC would’ve been a good place, but bringing it there would’ve been expensive and I wasn’t terribly concerned about it.

When I got Sheol last November, my goal was to get my bike in spring and teach him to run beside the bike.  I thought that would be great incentive for me to get moving more, but that all crumbled when I had to find him a new home right before christmas.  Even tho I don’t have a dog to share in the fun, I decided to get my bike together anyway this spring.  I brought it to the city when I went to my parents place for a weekend in May.  The back tire needed some work, new spokes and a new tube/tire.  My current roommate took a look at it and goes, the rim is cracked and you need a whole new tire.  That sucked.  I don’t have money for a new tire.  My dad had already replaced the front tire with a spare tire from my mom’s old bike.  He then decided to see if the back tire would fit as well, which it did!  Roommate then went and filled the tires with air when I wasn’t home, which was awesome.

I decided to take it out on Friday.  I went for a ride down Churchill Drive and then through some of the streets in the area, was about a 20 minute ride all together.  My butt was sore, but otherwise I felt ok.  Saturday morning I decided to go for a longer ride!  I ended up going all the way to the end of Churchill Drive, just south of Jubilee Ave and back.  On the way back I went along the trails by the river, which was much more interesting and kept me involved.  I looked it up today and that trip is a total of 8kms, that’s almost 5 miles!  It took about 40 minutes, which I don’t think is too bad all things considered.  Today was going to be a rest day, but I ended up doing 20 minute yoga for strength from, a 15 minute stretch workout and then went for another bike ride down Churchill Drive, down to osborne and back for a total of 6 kms or 3 miles in about 20 minutes.

Today’s eats were a tuna pita with romane lettuce, honey mustard dressing and spinach, and then a tuna wrap for supper.  Along with supper I had an apple with peanut butter and a few pieces of a chocolate hazelnut bar.  I also made potato leek soup and peanut butter chocolate granola.  I’m going to be prepping some overnight oats for breakfast tomorrow and I’m hoping to get up early enough to go for a bike ride or maybe do level one of Jillian Michaels 30 day shred before work.

Pumpkin Overnight Oats

I’m sure you are all tired of hearing about school stuff, but I got a response from Manitoba Student Aid last night and am SO excited about it I can’t help it!  I am official eligible for $2750 of assistance.  $1900 of that is from Canadian Government Grants!  I don’t have to pay back a grant!  I only have to repay $800 of the money I’m getting from the government.  It’s very very exciting.  I don’t know if it will cover all my tuition, but it will cover a very large chunk of it.  Now all I have to do is register for classes in august and see how much the bill comes out to. 

Another great thing is that Adrian is going to be here by the end of August and will be staying for 6 months.  I’m excited and rather stressed about it right now.  I want to start doing some serious cleaning and reorganizing to make sure there’s room for his clothes and just because it does need to be done.  I have some boxes that I never ever look into that need to be cleared out and want to get some clothes ready for value village or mcc.  It will make more room in my closet and dresser which will be nice.  I also have a plan for something special that needs to be sorted out by the time Adrian gets here but I can’t say what it is because he reads this!  Fingers crossed everything will work out.

Now…pumpkin overnight oats which weren’t done overnight.  I have plain canned pumpkin in my fridge, leftovers from an attempt to make hot pumpkin oats which I ended up not liking at all.  I love pumpkin and didn’t want it to go bad.  The pumpkin deserves better then that.  I’m also out of bananas and am missing my overnight oats.  Last night I had a revelation!  What if I used canned pumpkin instead of bananas in my oats and add pumpkin pie spice and extra cinnamon?  It would be pumpkin pie in a ziploc twistylidded container.  Pumpkin pie with no crust!  My brain, which was half asleep at the time, was convinced it couldn’t go wrong.  Surprisingly the next morning I actually remembered to try this, so it was thrown together literally 2 minutes before I left for the bus.  It started to thicken immediately, I probably could’ve eaten it right away.  It does need more sweetening then overnight oats with banana does, but I don’t care! 

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats

1/3 cup rolled oats

2 tbsp ground flax or chia seeds

1/2 cup plain canned pumpkin

3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I use soy)

3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1-2 tsp agave nectar  (totally going to try maple syrup next time)

Mix in a bowl or twisty-lidded container before leaving the house or going to bed.  Get to work or wake up in the morning and chow down. 

Verdict?  I love pumpkin pie filling.

Beans and Student Loans

It’s been a crazy few weeks recently.  I’ve been doing a lot of prep-ahead foods and simple salads for lunches.  I worked 2-10pm the last two weeks and I can already tell that once I’m in school all morning, preparing food on the weekend is going to be insanely important so that I don’t spend money on junk food downtown!  Last weekend I made a simple bean salad which I adore and might post later.  This weekend I made baked beans from scratch and a quinoa and avocado salad.  I haven’t eaten much of the salad yet and so I will wait to post the recipe, it might need tweaking!

In completely un-food-related news…I got accepted to university!  They sent me my registration appointment date email before they sent me the “congrats you can continue taking classes” email.  Way to organize emails UofW!  I immediately applied for manitoba student loans once I found out I was accepted and have to sign and return some papers before they can complete the application.  I hope I get accepted so I don’t have to go begging  pleading  asking my parents to co-sign a student loan through a bank somewhere.  I’m also going to be sending Adrian some money this month and he’ll be out in August for 6 months.  A friend of mine has found him a job too!  The only other “large” purchase I need to sort out this summer is an acer aspireone netbook for school purposes.  I figure it’ll be easier to take notes and carry around all the time.  Staples has them for $300, which is a decent price.

Back to food!  The baked beans are completely vegan, a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, and very very tasty with toast.  This was my second batch and is the best one yet.  It really is true that the more you eat beans and lentils, the less you feel their…erm…effects.  I canned these beans and have them sitting in the fridge for when I’m hungry but don’t have much time, or when I’m lazy and just want to re-heat something!  I try to always have some soup or something in jars in the fridge and it usually works. 

Baked Beans

3 cups white navy beans

12 cups water

3/4 cup ketchup

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup mollasses

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1-2 onions, diced

1. Soak beans overnight or at least 8 hours.  Drain and place in slowcooker with the 12 cups of water.  Cook on high for 2-3 hours.  Drain, saving the water, and place back in the slow cooker.

2. Mix remaining ingredients, pour over beans.  Add enough bean cooking water to cover by about 1/2″.  Let cook on low for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally.  Keep some bean water handy just in case the sauce caramelizes before the beans are done.  Store in jars or in ziploc freezer bags and freeze.

Quinoa and Garlic Veggie Bowl

Sometimes you want something easy yet still tasty and healthy.  Something where you can spend a whole 20 minutes cooking and eat all of it without feeling guilty.  Something that doesn’t heat up your kitchen anymore then it already is because it’s +25 C outside and your apartment doesn’t have A/C.  Yesterday was that day. 

Enter Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa).  An ancient grain that’s full of  protein (12-18%) and amino acids, making it one of the few complete protein sources among plant foods.  It is also a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. (Source here)  Quinoa is also gluten free if you care about such things.  It’s very easy to cook and can be served instead of rice or for breakfast instead of oatmeal.  It has a very nice, subtle nutty flavour.  You can buy organic quinoa at Bulk Barn or health food stores.

Quinoa and Garlic Veggie Bowl

1 cup Quinoa, rinsed

1 1/2 cups Vegetable Broth

1-2 tsp olive oil

1/2 large zucchini, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced or diced

1/2 red pepper, sliced or large dice

5 button mushrooms, sliced

1 medium bunch Kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

5-7 stalks Asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring the quinoa and vegetable brother to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Lower heat, cover and let simmer until broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

2. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and onion, sautee untill onion is soft.  Add remaining vegetables, cover and cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over quinoa in a bowl.  It’s also great in a wrap with bbq sauce, or other stir-fry sauce of your choice (teryaki, honey garlic, sweet thai chili, etc).