Title: I’m back.. or.. What have we done??

Our cute little ‘home sweet home’ back in July 2012. (thanks Google!)
(look how little the trees are!!)  2012 house

This blog/journal is going to take a twist for the next couple of, few, several months as I/we return to the blogosphere after a lengthy absence.

Last night, For the umpteenth night in a row, I went to bed with my head so very jam-packed full of thoughts, ideas, fears, dreams, emotions… (why do they always pile on at 11+pm at night..) when my poor dearly beloved was already crashed for the night.    My final thought before I joined him in fitful slumber was this..  ‘I need to journal this time of our lives.  I need to get my thoughts on paper’  So, here I am.. back in ‘Bill & Amy’s kitchen’  as we’re about to tear it completely apart and rebuild.  Yes, you heard that.

We’re destroying our sweet little haven of a home.
……..
And rebuilding it from scratch.. well, almost.

How did this happen?  What have we done??

It started almost 2 yrs ago…  we were planning a new larger front entrance with a covered porch, a double wide driveway, leading to a wonderful new patio & deck behind our house, perfect for summer entertaining.  Pretty, isn’t it??  (Bill painted our house from the pukey snot green to this lovely Maritime blue about 4 yrs ago) IMG_1955

AmyBillPlan2018

IMG_1954My Sweet William started the project, building a beautiful fence along our property line to close in the new (coming in July we thought) double wide driveway, and to give us back some much needed privacy.

Then……………. A few short weeks ago, we had 3 contractors at our house all at the same time.. our electrician who is moving the hydro service before the porch addition could start, the landscaping contractor  who created this beautiful design and was visiting to take her final measurements, and lastly, my cousin/boss/General Contractor.. John, who was here to help plan how we were going to build the new open gable for my new pretty front porch that I was already in love with.

As we all stood in the front yard looking at the house.. my dearly beloved asked the question that was honestly like a bomb explosion.  I went through EVERY emotion in about 3 seconds – starting with deflation, grieving that this job wasn’t going to be done this summer, 2 years after we started planning it.  anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness… incredulity, then HOPE..His simple question that carried so much weight:  “what if we just added 6′ to the whole house?”

pause… crickets.. WHAT???? 

so here we are a short, yet very long month later.. plans are drawn up, we’re almost ready to go to building permit, quotes are flying in.. and we’re on a semi-schedule to start in 6-8 weeks.   Not just adding 6’… but NINE feet to the front of the house.  The iterations/changes/additions in the last few weeks would have any sane person’s head spinning.

From 6′ to 8’… then 9′.. staggered front wall changed to straight (thanks to a great designer who has been giving us amazing input).   Adding a 2nd bathroom, gutting 80% of the whole main floor, kitchen, hvac and plumbing all rerouted.. new entrance.. moving & removing & adding windows… well, let’s just gut the main bath now too.. why not?  The roller coaster ride has been exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.   If you’ve ever been through a project like this.. you know exactly what I mean.

Pics up in the attic to see what we’re dealing with.  IMG_2093 found out we need to add in a beam to replace all the walls we’re taking down for ceiling load.   Ok.. we can deal with that.  We like the added stability.

I’ve started to take photos of the rooms we’re parting with. We’re taking out the guest room (new one will be built in the basement with guest bath)  bathroom is being demo’d and redesigned with more space, and living room will be made much larger with new walls, ceiling, windows, lights.. and BUH-BYE to the horrid boob lights!! woo hoo!

IMG_2100

 

We have a Tree moving service coming to remove our happy little huge Vanderwolf Pine, and quite possibly our stunning magnolia, (insert crying face here) and the electrician is coming to move our hydro service as planned, both before the end of this month.    We’ve been able to procur very handy storage across the street for all our belongings when we move out, and have begun the arduous processes (is that a word?) to purge, sell and move out.

 

Meanwhile,  I’ve been having fun planning our space, and choosing colours..

..coordinating trades and suppliers, choosing doors, windows, flooring.. My 12 yrs of experience in the home building business helping clients will be a great asset to this project.  I sincerely hope.

This sweet house in Vineland is our exterior inspiration.IMG_1989

Sooo.. here we go.  Come along for the ride if you like.. it’s going to be bumpy!

Maybe I’ll throw in some food porn on the way just to keep it interesting…   🙂

Amy

Greek Lentil Salad

I adore the Podleski sisters.. Janet & Greta.. co-writers of Looney Spoons & Crazy Plates, Eat Shrink and Be Merry, and the Looney Spoons collection.  I have 2 of their cookbooks, and use them regularly.  Of all the cookbooks I own, theirs are the most used in our home.

I recently discovered their Greek Lentil Salad from their webpage…<—(link to actual recipe is here) I’ve been making it regularly for my lunches at work.  Even though their recipes as written are amazing enough, I always alter to what I have in the house, what is fresh and local, what’s growing in my garden.. or what I feel like.

Today I made the salad, and added in some fresh raw green beans from my garden.  I also increase the amount of dijon mustard in the dressing, and the herbs.. (all fresh from our garden as well.)  I love going out there with my clippers and snipping off fresh dill, basil, cilantro, chives, mint, summer savoury, rosemary.. whatever my recipe calls for, or doesn’t and i just feel like. 🙂

Here’s the dressing:

  

Avocado Oil (instead of Evoo)
freshly squeezed lemon juice
apple cider vinegar
Agave (instead of honey)
dijon mustard (doubled)
minced garlic (doubled)
dried oregano
dash S & P

And here’s the salad:

  

2 cans of brown lentils
grape tomatoes
diced english cucumber (recipe says to peel, i always wash and leave peel on)
diced orange pepper (recipe calls for green, i like colour)
diced red onions
chopped pitted olives (recipe called for Kalamata, i used a mix)
chopped fresh parsley
chopped fresh mint

and then i realized i missed the most important item that is in just about EVERY Greek salad… FETA!!  How could I forget the Feta?  Beta late than Neva.

  

2 cups of this salad contain… (recipe makes 10 cups, yes, I measured)

349 calories (great for a full lunch!)
13.6 g fat (less if i used light feta!)
37.4 g carbs (meh)
15.3 g protein (wow!)
667 mg sodium (ouch)
8.4 g Fiber (yay!)

so next time, i am going to see what i can do to lower the sodium especially.. i do rinse my beans thoroughly, and i don’t think the dressing needed salt with the olives and feta….    In any case, it’s packed full of 3 very important things:  Protein, Fibre and most important… YUMMINESS!!!

Yummy Yummy Fish

Every now and then, my mom calls me and asks… “if you’re going to Costco, can you pick me up some Yummy Yummy fish?”  She can never remember the name “Mahi Mahi”… and calls it by what it tastes like… Yummy Yummy..  Mom doesn’t like fishy fish.. you know.. it smells fishy, it leaves your house stinking fishy.. and it tastes really fishy…  I get that.  But i do enjoy a fishy fish every now and then. 🙂

We discovered Mahi Mahi a few years ago.  It’s great fish to cook with.. but you have to be so very careful NOT to overcook, otherwise it gets dry. It’s best when it’s a little opaque in the centre.. medium rare.    Fish is one of the fastest meats to cook too.  We eat fish of some kind at least 2-3 x a week in the winter, and I’m trying to incorporate more in the summer as well (besides salmon)

Mom’s call reminded me of the Mahi Mahi I had in the freezer, so I decided to try it on the BBQ in a foil pack.  I also had some candy cane & yellow beets in the fridge, a nice big Yam, and some other fresh veg ready to go.  (broccoli, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, with bits of yellow beet)

I laid out slices of lemon, green onions, and dill on a double thick piece of foil while the mahi mahi was thawing in the sink.  (they come in these lovely individually wrapped packages… so great for 2 people like us, or singles like my mom)    

Peeled and sliced up the beets, and dressed them in avocado oil, summer savoury, S&P.    

  

Yam was brushed with melted butter and received a healthy dose of chopped fresh rosemary from the garden.

When the fish was thawed, I topped it with some lemon butter dill sauce.

Result?  Mahi Mahi was overcooked.. I’m not sure it will work on the grill, but I will try again sometime this summer.  The beets and yam got burned.. (Bill got distracted and left the BBQ too long)  but overall, it was still a decent supper.   The broccoli was overdone as well, (wilted, and that over strong broccoli flavour I don’t like.. i prefer it lightly steamed, so it’s still crunchy, before it gets that strong bitter flavour)

  

Overall the meal was very colourful, with lots of great bold tastes. (except the broccoli)

Not every meal is a success, but this one was a definite learning experience.  We’ll try again!

We don’t BBQ in the winter

I know many people grill and BBQ all year round, but we actually have a pretty cheap propane BBQ that sits out in our backyard… Bill doesn’t like to have it close to the house, and doesn’t like the cold… so I cook everything on the stove or in the oven in the cool months, and we grill/BBQ all our dinners in the warm months.  What ends up happening with this method, is that I forget from one season to the next what our favourite meals were, how to do them, what worked well… (I hear you thinking.. is she that forgetful?)  Here’s the problem… i rarely use recipes, and if I do, it’s only as a launching pad.  And then 6 months later, the concoction that I came up with in my head is gone..

So.. I’m hoping this blog will rectify that.  I rarely ever measure.. (except in baking where chemistry is important)

Bill and I are learning grill methods together.. meaning, I learn, and I go out and tell him what to do while he’s grilling.   (“flip now, brush sauce on now…”)  He likes timers, so i do that for him as well.   In years previous, we finally mastered sirloin steaks to a nice medium rare, hamburgers, and cedar planked salmon.   I have never been able to get chicken or pork right… UNTIL this year!  Tonite we had our first ever success with grilled pork tenderloin kebobs.

Our local Foodland has the best cuts of meat (shout out to Vito, the butcher!)  Today he had these beautiful pork kebabs on sale, so I picked a few up to try.  I brushed some avocado oil on, ground fresh pepper and a bit of salt, and sprinkled with some dried tarragon.

I also picked up some pineapple sauce and fresh pineapple while i was in the store.  Picked zucchini, mint, garlic scapes, (these were harvested a while ago, and have been staying fresh in a bag in our crisper)  and basil.  A friend gave us fresh sweet peaches from his orchard this week, so I also halved 2 of those for dinner.

  
First time I’ve grilled fruit as well.  I melted some butter and brushed it lightly on the fruit, adding cinnamon to the butter for the peaches.    Zucchini was dressed only in fresh squeezed lemon juice and Greek seasoning.  Scapes with Avocado Oil, lemon, salt & pepper.  (in case you’re wondering why i use Avocado Oil, it has a much higher burning point than Olive Oil, which breaks down and loses all it’s nutritional value when heated past a certain temperature.. i don’t know the particulars or the science of it.. but i’ve been using avocado oil, and really like the results)

So.. here’s the results of tonite’s first attempt at fruit and pork kebabs… I can tell you honestly.. this was the BEST dinner we’ve had in a while, it was so tasty, the pork was fork tender, and melted in our mouths.  Serious YUM factor.

    

Our tomatoes are starting to ripen!

i get so excited when the first of our tomatoes ripen.  I have 3 overflowing cages of heirloom tomatoes growing on the south side of our house, a perfect spot where they get lots of sun and heat.   I’ve been brutal with them this year, (although you’d never know it looking at them) trimming, suckering, peeling off leaves… 

Today I thought I’d try my hand at something new (to me) .. Grilled stuffed tomatoes.   Recipe calls to just cut off the top of each tomato, and scoop out the flesh… But one tomato each would have been too much..our tomatoes are HUMONGOUS!!!   Great thing about heirloom tomatoes is the meaty flesh.. Very little wet seedy areas.

I stuffed the tomato halves with stovetop stuffing (called for croutons,none in the house), the meat from the tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley, chives, summer savoury, and feta (all veg and herbs from our garden) 

   

I had way too much stuffing for the two halves, (enough for one more half filled like these) next time we will try quinoa or rice…  And less of it.   Add in some garlic and onion maybe? 
And here’s dinner….  

Grilled sirloin steak, sliced portobello mushrooms, zucchini, and our stuffed tomatoes.   So Yummmmmmy…. 

Today we had a late breakfast outside, leaving us full and satisfied well past midday, so this was our “Lupper”..  

Bills headed off to the races tonight, making it  a perfect night for an early meal.   

  
                                                                                           Bon appetit!!!

I hate beets

at least I used to.   Cold, pickled, boiled… Doesn’t matter, they taste like dirt.

That is, until someone made roasted root vegetables for a family dinner a few yrs ago, and beets were in the mix.   Tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and some Rosemary…and most importantly, not overcooked, I was pleasantly surprised to find they were actually quite good!

Inspired by the roasted beet phenomenon that changed my Dutch stubborn mind… I decided last summer to try them on the grill with some surprising success!  My guests, Bill, and even I, the beet-hater… Loved them.

This past Friday  we stopped by our local fruit stand, to see what they had ready. I was disappointed by the slim pickings.  No fruit, just bushels & bushels of corn, zucchini (we already have enough to sell ourselves) and little else.  The girl at the stand tried six different ways to sell us sweet corn, but we weren’t interested.   I didn’t want to leave empty handed, and just before I gave up, I stopped and my eyes fell on this one huge gorgeous deep burgundy beet.   We gladly paid $1 and brought the beauty home.   We were away for the rest of the weekend, so she sat alone on the counter til tonite…waiting to see what I would do with her.

I’ll get better at this blogging thing, even now as I write, I realize I should have taken a photo of both the fruit stand, and the glorious uncut beet.  Instead here you have the sliced beet, rubbed with Evoo, S&P, with fresh chopped rosemary and summer savoury from our garden.  Each slice is about 3″ diam.

Next question… What to add to this meal?  I have been wanting to try grilled romaine for awhile, and had a few large mushrooms left in the fridge, so I prepared those as well, while also marinating some chicken breasts in the fridge (chicken marinade is Evoo, grated rind from one lemon, 3 minced garlic cloves, crushed black pepper, and oregano)

Here’s all the veg ready to go..  

The halved Romaine hearts are lightly brushed with avocado oil on cut side, topped with a sprinkle of  steak spice and grated Parmesan

Mushrooms with avocado oil, and a dash of Greek seasoning

Can you smell the grilling beets?   

The romaine on my plate was maybe 30 seconds  over charred, but yummy (squeezed a little lemon juice on when it came off the grill for the final touch)

This next romaine was done to perfection… 

What unusual veg do you like on the grill?  What’s something different you’d like to try? Our review:   Bill was a little iffy on the romaine, but loved the beets.   I enjoyed both, but would do the romaine for shorter period next time, and maybe top with some crumbled “fromage bleu” immediately when it comes off the grill.  And perhaps bacon??  😉
                                                           Bon appetit!

It’s mostly Amy’s kitchen…

But “Amy’s kitchen”was already taken on WordPress, and my dearly beloved really does a lot most of the work in our garden and on the Q, so I’ll share the blog name with him.  I love posting pictures of our tasty healthy dinners, and the miraculous growth in the garden, but I’m sure people on Facebook are getting tired of it.  I’ve decided instead to blog our yummy dinners, garden pictures, birds, trees, flowers and whatever else catches my eye and makes me happy.   We live in an exceptionally beautiful area within Niagara Peninsula in southern Ontario, also known as the “fruit belt”.  We are blessed with an endless bounty of amazing fresh local produce in the summer & autumn months.

The colours, aromas, shapes, textures and sizes are all so pleasing.   I love the smell on my hands when I pick fresh basil, mint, summer savory or Rosemary from my herb garden, or the juice of harvested garlic  running over my fingers.  

 The almost prickly fuzz on fresh picked zucchini  tickles.  I get excited at the first bright blooms, and when bees visit… Knowing we’ll have juicy plump fruit very soon.    

   Welcome to this one dimensional blog… Hopefully through my photos and words you will be able to smell the sweetness of fresh local strawberries, smell the sun heated herbs, feel the fuzz on zucchini, peaches and even green beans..   Bon appetite!!