A clenched fist cannot receive

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Yesterday I told a story about our rhubarb thief in the golf cart from many years ago, and my resulting passive aggressive response.    I’m not happy about that.  Honestly, we very gladly and willingly give from our garden.  It was the cutting of the stalks at the time that irked me more than anything.  (pull your rhubarb people, don’t cut it!)  I found this great video on youtube about how to harvest if you’re interested..

I had a conversation with one of my sisters last night, about open hands and closed fists.  I’m not sure where the quote originated from.. but I found these 2 on line..

“We cannot sow seeds with clenched fists. To sow we must open our hands.”

— Adolfo Perez 

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“When you clench your fist, no one can put anything in your hand.”

— Alex Haley

When we hold on too tightly to things, we cannot receive.. and we can often crush/destroy those things that we hold on to the tightest.   Jesus himself said “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) .. and if you yourself are a giver.. you know exactly what He was talking about.  If you’re not a giver.. you may never understand that until you open your hands and give – and find out the true blessing it is.

Honestly I don’t give in order to receive, but I’ve found it a really wonderful byproduct.

A year ago, we had to reallllly quickly move our veg/rhubarb garden for the construction on the back deck/patio.  We gave away about half of our rhubarb plants at the time- and we moved the rest to a temporary dirt pile beside our fence, with the intentions of building a new raised bed dedicated to these wonderful vegetables that we treat as fruit…

Guillermo built the fabulous new bed this week, a little over a year later. (WOW, time flies!!!)  A raised bed for our poor aging backs that suffer when bending to pull the delectable stalks.

Pic below, moving the old rhubarb patch April 2019.

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In the past year since we moved the rhubarb one shovelful at a time, it’s more than doubled.  We gave away half, and now we have double what we started out with!   So today again I put a call out on Facebook.. first come first served.. and gave away 7 mounds of rhubarb plants.

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One friend brought me grape hyacinths in return!  (Thanks Helen!!!)

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This year we’ve only been able to pull a tiny amount, enough to give a handful to my mom, and for one strawberry rhubarb crumble/crisp.

Recipe:
crumble with big fork or pastry cutter:

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup Brown sugar
1 cup softened butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
Cinnamon to taste

Reserve about 1.5-2 cups of the crumble.  Press down about 1/4 thick layer on bottom of greased 9×13 pan, and bake for 10 minutes in 350F oven.

cut up rhubarb & strawberries in a bowl – about 6-8 cups.. depending on how much fruit you want (more the better for me!!), cover with about 1/2 cup white sugar and 2 tbsp of corn starch and coat all the fruit. (i do this same recipe for blueberries, apples.. you name it.. adjust the cornstarch and sugar accordingly.  (Add a tbsp lemon juice when doing apples/blueberries.)

after 10 minutes baking the crust, pull out of oven, top with fruit mixture and then the reserved crumble, and bake for 45 minutes.   Let cool before slicing.


 The rhubarb we’re keeping  (for now) has been moved to it’s new bed, with room for 3 mounds of zucchini I planted beside it.

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The first I heard about the concept of “clenched fist vs. open hand” was from a dear friend, Laura Schular many years ago.. and it was in regards to prayer.. we need to have our hands open rather than clasped when we pray in order for us to receive.   Not that God is beyond the posture our hands are in.. but it really helps us to ready our hearts and minds when our posture is involved.

open hands

 

 

Kale Chips & Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

I may have a Kale thief. 

The other day I came home from doing groceries, and came out back to see what Guillermo was up to, and noticed one of my Kale plants stripped bare in the middle….

Hrmmm. Not mentioning any names, but I think I’m related to her.   🙂 

A few years ago I had a rhubarb thief.  I knew exactly who that was too.  They left golf cart tracks all the way through our wet lawn from beside my garden right to their house.   That particular thief actually cut the rhubarb stocks off with a knife, which kinda irked me just a little.  I’ve always been taught, you PULL rhubarb.. never cut it.  Pulling strengthens the root, and more grow back.  So…. harnessing my passive aggressive tendencies, I pulled some of the best and reddest juiciest stalks, washed them, and personally delivered them in a nice basket.. just so they’d have enough.  Don’t laugh.. I’m not proud of it. Honesty I’m glad to share from my garden- it’s not mine anyways… it’s all God’s. He’s the one that makes it grow- I’m just the gardener.

I dunno if you know this about me… but passive aggression is a very strong trait in my family, and somehow I got a triple dose of it.    It’s something I’m working on..  and working on….

Back to the Kale…. I harvested several leaves from a couple other plants (they are all going to seed now) and brought a bin full inside to wash up and break into large chunks. 

I don’t have a salad spinner, so I wrapped them up good in 3 tea towels and left them to dry over night.   Today while I was making soup and quiche for a dear friend going through cancer treatments, I decided to make kale chips in the oven. I had enough for 4 full cookie sheets.

If you’re new to my blog.. let me say.. i’m not your typical ‘recipe blog’… I look for recipes all over the interweb.. and when I find one.. i give credit to where I found it.. and typically don’t write out the whole recipe, unless I’ve done some major changes to it.  Please do go visit the original blogs where I’ve linked if this is something you’d like to try.

I found THIS GREAT RECIPE on line from “Oh She Glows” for All Dressed Kale Chips.  They turned out FANTASTIC.   Here’s the “dressing” (from Oh She Glows site)

 

I did 2 trays at a time in a 300F convection oven as she directs – and turned the trays halfway through.  My oven tends to run low/slow.. so I did a full half hour.  (She suggests 25 min total)

I will say this.. the process of rubbling oil on the kale and getting my hands all oily was the very best thing for my hands that are so dry and chapped from all the gardening I’ve been doing.   I’ve never used Nutritional Yeast before, so i was really curious about this recipe. 

I had bought some a while back hoping to use it sometime, and this was the perfect recipe to try it out on.   I didn’t have cayenne.. but these kitchen staples of mine were what I rubbed in before going in the oven. One thing I learned last time I made kale chips.. go VERY easy on salt.. kale has a natural saltiness that comes out when baked.. you don’t need hardly any added salt at all.

They turned out so crispy and yummy… even Guillermo (not a chip guy) said they were “not bad”… (that’s high praise coming from him!) LOL

While the kale chips were in the oven, I got going on the Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup – a recipe I found HERE several years ago.  I love this soup.  It’s so easy, Springy, and zesty flavourful. 

I spent some time on the deck yesterday cutting up the carrots, celery & onion (I couldn’t bear being stuck inside!) and put the prepped veg in the fridge for today.  I like making “flowers” with the carrots for some interest in the soup.  Some of them look like windmills.. but they’re still cute.

 

This recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken legs.. but I only had breasts – which I cut up in 1″ small pieces and fried up with a little Avocado oil and garlic in my cast iron Dutch oven.   

After the chicken was cooked through, I removed it, and put the celery, onion, carrots in to cook.  Then thyme for about a minute, then 2 tetras of No sodium organic chicken broth. (1800 ml)  The recipe calls for 5 cups, but i’ve found that the orzo sucks up a LOT of liquid, and I always do more veg/meat than a recipe calls for anyway..   

With the chicken broth, I added in the cooked chicken and a fresh rosemary sprig.  (from Bill & Amy’s garden!)   Once it boiled, added in 3/4 cup of dry orzo, and simmered for 10 minutes.   Then I turned it off, removed the lid – and stirred in the juice of one lemon, 2 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley and about 1 tbsp lemon zest – and let it cool so I could portion it out for freezer/reheating.  it’s BEST when served immediately.. but it’s good later too. Here’s a closeup of the soup in a bowl. See those cute carrots wheels?

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As for Bill and Amy’s garden… the rhubarb/squash bed is done and ready for me to transplant.. and the pole bean bed is well on it’s way!  We’re having the BEST week of weather here in Niagara.. today it’s about 21 C with perfect blue skies and no humidity.

 

We are SO thankful to have our backyard to work in while we’re isolating during Covid.. to have this time now to work at home.  God is GOOD.  All the time… God is good.

This morning, before heading into the kitchen, I spent a couple of hours working on recording one very small 4.5 minute devotional video for our kids at church.  We have a really great summer intern who’s been doing some on line devotionals, crafts and other things for our kids at church while we’re not able to worship together. 

She asked me to do a short video for next week.. and wow, it is NOT easy.. i was happy to do it though.  My hats off to her and our Pastor who do this every week! I look forward to sharing the finished product with you next week when it airs… but in the meantime.. enjoy this blooper..

Update on Bill & Amy’s Garden

We had a very rainy “Victoria Day” weekend here in Niagara, Ontario.   Not as rainy as the weather forecasters predicted, thank God.  I actually spent some time in prayer about it, because originally they were calling for over 100 mm (over 4″) with dangerous flooding all in one day, plus the two other days of light rain.  Before the rains started, I picked an armful of tulips from our yard to bring in the house.

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Turns out we only had sporadic light rain for 2 days.. it was actually very lovely, and just what our gardens & fields needed.  We could likely use more.. but I’m not complaining that our current forecast is for 5 days of sun and lovely mild weather.  Not too hot, not too cold.

The kitchen scraps are doing well.  I planted 2 more romaine from our kitchen window sill and it’s taking well.

I have rutabega scraps from this big root end that I cut and have growing in a bowl of water, and not sure when to plant it. do I wait for roots?  (note to self.. google that..)

The zucchini and boston lettuce seeds I planted 5 days ago are already sprouting.  I bring them outside in the sun on nice days, and otherwise keep them in the house by a South facing patio door.

 

I wasn’t expecting visible growth so quickly, but am excited for it.   Nothing yet on the jalepeno peppers, other lettuces, radishes or cucumbers – but i’m hopeful.

Our Kwanzan Cherry tree survived the snowy cold weekend of 10 days ago, and now is in perfect beautiful bloom.

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A few days ago, we planted the 5 large white hydrangeas we bought on sale at Easter and kept in our living room for 6 weeks.  We also planted 2 blue hydrangeas from last Easter that survived the winter on the patio in their pots.   All together they will be  a lovely backdrop for the Liberation 75 tulips that are also finally in bloom along with Orange Star of Bethlehem.

One of the tulips broke off (squirrels!), so I brought it inside and placed it in this lovely bud vase we picked up 4 years ago at my Cousin’s flower shop in Renswoude, Netherlands.  It’s Italian glass, and one of my favourite special pieces.

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Today we planted 4 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, and the herb garden.   I pulled out a very pervasive and root bound mint plant from our main garden and gave it it’s own pot.

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Even though I had planted it in the garden, 4″ plastic pot and all.. the roots shot out and around and it kept sprouting up in other places.  It may get a little shock for a few days, but will likely thrive better in it’s own pot, cut free from the old plastic pot and give my garden more space for lettuces and other veggies.

 

Guillermo has been hard at work on our new raised rhubarb and squash bed.  I’ll share more pics when it’s done.. this is just a teaser. He’s lining the sides with Delta wrap to preserve the wood on the inside.

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I found this valiant Dandy of a Lion peeking it’s way through the rhubarb patch today.. and hadn’t the heart to pull it.  Tomorrow I  need to pull rhubarb & buy some strawberries.. if you know what I mean… 😉img_9258

Orioles and hummingbirds are back at the feeders, I’ve been graced with many photo ops with the Orioles, but none yet with the hummingbirds… I hope to soon to be able to share the hummingbirds with you.

We finished our puzzle of Prinsengracht, Amsterdam just as the rain ended.  I’ll admit, Bill did all the hard parts.   This was our first puzzle we completed left missing ONE piece.  For now I’m keeping the puzzle  on the table, in hopes that we’ll find that piece.. along with my car keys i’ve been missing for 2 weeks… Arrrgghh

I’m really looking forward to sharing more of Bill and Amy’s garden with you in the coming weeks.

Our main thought for this week is one that our Pastor brought up in this Sunday’s message about God’s faithfulness.   It was our church’s 90th anniversary celebration, and I was blessed to be able to partake in a virtual choral group singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness”  Click HERE for the link to the video.

The question I leave you with is this…

Do you have a standout memory of God’s faithfulness that ignites praise in you?
What was the situation? How did God prove Himself faithful?
What helps you remember that time in your life?
I’m ruminating on this.. and thinking I need to spend more time remembering.. building “cairns” to God’s faithfulness.  Writing, recording… cause you know what?
God is good.
All the time.
God is good.  

 

 

 

 

 

Guillermo baked Gingerbread

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Guillermo (my sweet William) has a very sweet tooth.  Not for candy, or gum.. but milk chocolate, cakes, cookies, squares.. if they’re anywhere NEAR the house.. he’ll sniff them out.  I’ve taken to trying to find the most obscure hiding places.. but when his sweet tooth calls.. he finds whatever I’ve hidden.  Even the darkest chocolate that he normally would never touch and I can keep in the house for months so it’s there when i need a small bite.. he’ll find that and finish it off.  and HE’s the thin one.  So unfair.  LOL.  Good thing he’s very handsome!

When he was a wee lad, he said to his mother one day… “I want chocolate cake!” and she promptly replied, “well then, you better learn to bake one!”  and so he did.  He has a chocolate cake recipe that is quite incredible – he baked 2 of them for my birthday earlier this year.  img_5043

I was supposed to blog that recipe and him baking last year, and realize now that I never did.. .I will definitely do so next time he makes it.  He also makes the most amazing silky smooth cheesecake.. mmmmm… cheesecake.  Honey, if you’re reading this.. when Covid is over and we can have company again for dinner.. you’re on dessert duty!

THIS week though, it wasn’t the chocolate cake or cheesecake that he was craving.. it was Gingerbread.   Now, being a good Dutch girl.. when I hear gingerbread.. my mind doesn’t go to cake.. it goes to Speculaas.. Gingerbread cookies.  I learned that gingerBREAD is an actual thing when I married my Sweet tooth William.

I was busy doing something elsewhere in the house, when I  started hearing pans clanking in the kitchen, measuring spoons clunking around, and tell tale signs (murmuring, singing, humming, mumbling) that he was about to go to work.   This VERY old recipe of his that came from some newspaper likely 40+ years ago is glued into his own Hillroy lined paper recipe book. (think school workbook)  Unfortunately the COLOR photograph is not included in his recipe book)

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This bread/cake has an overwhelming molasses taste… it’s NOT my cup of tea, but he loves it.  And it’s pretty simple.  He doesn’t include the poached apples – which actually may temper the molasses a bit, but you can BET he includes the whip cream!

 

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We don’t actually have a 9×9 pan that this recipe required.. we may have had one before the “great upheaval” renovation/move-out/purge in 2018.. but we no longer do.. so he used two loaf pans instead.

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Looks like chocolate cake, doesn’t it?  That rich darkness is all from the Black strap molasses.

And below his first serving… yes, I can hear you laughing… I finally understand.  He only needed a vehicle for his whipped cream.  HAHAHA

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In other news, and for the sake of rememberence… we’ve had SNOW this week.. in almost mid May.. other years we’ve had to turn the AC on in late April.  May 12th and we’re still running the heat every day.

We’re not happy.

We want to porch visit our parents.  Go for long walks.. garden, be outside!! But the weather is not cooperating.  We’re still hovering in single digits (Celcius) most days, and have another frost warning for tonite.

I planted some kitchen scraps that I was growing on the window sill a couple of weeks ago when I had hope for them.. but they’ve wilted.. likely frozen.

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Never fear.. i have more Romaine lettuce growing on the windowsill, and will plant them when we are sure that Jack Frost has left the area.

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I had a rutabega on the counter also growing sprouts.. so i’ve decided to see what that will do.. not sure if the wax will be an issue.. but it’s growing, so I’m gonna try it!

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In keeping with our hopeful theme of “Bill and Amy’s garden” for the next few weeks… here’s a pic of our poor magnolia that isn’t having any luck this year with all the frosty nights.

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BUT… we are Very pleased to have our friend Mr. Redbreasted Grosbeak return.. plus quite a nice little flock of Baltimore Orioles that I’ll share with you on your next visit to billandamyskitchen.ca

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Bill & Amy’s Garden

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For the next couple of weeks the Blog focus is shifting from our kitchen to our garden(s) as we hope to spend more time outside than in.    While April here in Southern Ontario began with lovely warm days, the last 3 weeks for the most part have been unseasonably cool, with the odd warm day thrown in.  Today started at 6C, but  i’m sitting outside, wrapped up in fleece and determined to enjoy these Spring days at home during Covid-19.

I started this blog a few years ago introducing ourselves with a post showing pics of our crazy overgrown vegetable garden.   First post is HERE.    A lot has changed, especially since June 2018, almost 2 years ago, when we tore it all apart.  If you’re interested in that insane story.. it starts HERE.   One thing remains.. i still grow a LOT of garlic.. mostly for the scapes, that I’m very much looking forward to grilling in a couple of months.

This morning, Guillermo and I had to run a couple of errands, and stopped at a couple of roadside flower stands.  I picked up some hyacinths, mini daffodils, and bright orange star of Bethlehem  (these have been on my garden wish list for YEARS)

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After planting the new bulbs, i took a tour of our gardens, and will now take you along with me.

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We have a lovely Kwanzan Cherry that is about to bloom.  This past Sunday the  thermometer held in the mid-high Twenties (close to 80F) and a lot happened in our garden.  Since then it’s dropped down to single digits up to low teens.  (mid 40s-low 50s F) Everything is late this year.. and growing slowly.  I finally have tulips starting to open on the East & West sides of the house, but the North is just starting to sprout stems between the leaves.

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One of my favourite Spring blooming plants (and for some reason one of Guillermo’s least fav) is this bleeding heart I transplanted years ago from the hedge line between our driveway and our neighbours.

 

Our previous neighbour Helen (who we lost several years ago) had something planted EVERYWHERE – her back yard was a jungle of vegetables, fruit trees, perennials, fruit bushes, weeds….  and I very gladly inherited quite a bit from her.  I love meandering around the yard and remembering the original owners who gifted me their plants.

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Most of the variagated hostas & Solomon’s seal that are vibrantly sprouting up  are from my sister Judi’s garden – transplanted when she moved from Ontario to Vancouver over 10 yrs ago.  Garlic bulbs in our new raised garden came mostly from Helen’s garden over a dozen years ago, the kale and onions are left from last year’s late summer planting, and doing well.

Two different mint varietals were gifted last year from our landscapers.  Now mint… that’s interesting..

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Mint is VERY invasive.  I’m surprised we received that from a landscaper..   I actually left the two plants we have in their pots, planting ‘pot and all’ into the dirt “hoping” that would contain them, but the shoots had a bit of a party in the fall, winter and early spring.  I cleaned them up yesterday, and washed all that I harvested and immediately made a pot of fresh mint tea.

It reminds me of our time in Holland 4 years ago when we often would order mint tea, it came with several mottled sprigs in a tall glass mug of boiled water and a pat of honey.  No tea bags there!  I had my first cup with cranberry honey, then found I didn’t need it.. the mint was fresh and more than sweet enough on it’s own.

 

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We retained about half of our peony hedge with the new deck/patio installation last year, and they are well on their way for a June bloom.

 

The faithful rhubarb seems to have greatly multiplied, even though we gave away more than half of it.  I can see some rhubarb crumbles coming along soon… mmmm

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This month Bill is boxing them in and giving them their own new space, while moving these dark purple peonies (rescued from Helen’s Vegetable garden – don’t ask) and tulips back to their rightful spot behind the cottage in a new rebuilt garden.   This pile was only meant to be a temporary transplant while we renovated.

The sweet cherry tree is beginning to blossom, and beckoning it’s faithful pollinators.  Without the orchard behind us, the bees are rare, but we hope to see them return soon.

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Sadly, our magnolia is suffering… there are a few factors.. the cold Spring, a few hot days mixed in with sudden frost causing damage.. and SQUIRRELS!!  The little beasts have not only figured out how to forage at our “squirrel proof” bird feeder, they’ve been eating the blossoms right off the magnolia.   ARRGGHHH… where’s my super soaker?

 

 

While wandering, I went out into the field behind our house.  When we excavated for our new addition 18 months ago, a large pile of dirt from the front of our house went back into the field for us to re plant with.  Our neighbours have been whittling at the pile during the last year (with our permission) and I’m curious how many of my plants they inherited!🌷 Today I found several tulips, poppies, and narcissus on the remaining dirt pile.  I laughed when i found them and immediately went back home to get my tools to dig them up and transplant back home where they belonged.

 

That leaves our container garden.. which will soon have lettuces, heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs for daily picking throughout late summer & autumn.

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2 hydrangeas that were meant to be planted last year, stayed out on the new stone patio in their original planter all winter, and survived.  THIS Spring they will finally be planted and the waiting game will begin as we find out what our new soil in the North facing front garden produces.. Blue or Pink?  Pink or Blue..   Almost feels like a gender reveal party in the making. 😎 👫😀

Hope you enjoyed the tour.. we look forward to what the next few weeks reveals, other than tired muscles. 😉

Cooking on a dime

The reality of this pandemic is sinking in. While we’re thankful for the government aid, it’s limited and considerably less than what we’re accustomed to and budgeted on. So we’re making cuts and doing what we can to save money. Neither of us knows what our future employment will look like – and bills keep rolling in- so it’s definitely time to pull up our socks.

The other day I was grocery shopping for my mom and shocked to see a price of $2.82 (Can) on 4 chicken leg quarters. I’ve already stopped buying more expensive meats/fish like salmon/tenderloins- and looking for less expensive cuts, and planning to cut down on meat in our cooking. We’re not going out at all, and haven’t done any takeout (yet). As much as we’d love to support our local restaurants, we need to be good stewards too.

I’ll admit- I only typically buy boneless skinless chicken breasts or sometimes thighs… again boneless and skinless. But I couldn’t resist this price- and knew with the inter web – I’d be able to find a recipe and make it work. I’ve never purchased or prepared chicken quarters (never mind a whole chicken!) before. At 2.82 that’s 70.5cents a person! Add in the veg, spice, and potato, I think we were at $1.50 per person for the meal.

The recipe I found required me to touch the raw meat. If you’ve been following me- you know this is a real struggle, but my sense of money saving won over the squeemishness.

First I made a wet rub of the following:

1 tablespoon (pink Himalayan) seasalt

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tsp Clubhouse Vegetable seasoning

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tbsp chili powder

½ teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper

I cut off a LOT of the excess fat underneath the quarters and slit open the skin. My kitchen scissors were bleached and sanitized before and after while I shuddered… LOL

Then I called Guillermo over to be my photographer, because my hands were going ALL IN and up into that chickens skin. Peeling back the skin, you rub that mixture right in, under and over the skin, and put the skin layer back on top. Make sure the quarters have room between to cook evenly – place in preheated oven at 400F for 40 min.

Once I had the chicken in the oven, sanitized the counters, tools and my hands.. I cut up 2 small potatoes and poured boiling water over them to sit for 10 min before drying thoroughly, seasoning and adding to the oven. I learned this trick of soaking in water, then drying last week and successfully made excellent crispy oven fries this way.

Last 5 minutes on timer I stir fried mushrooms, snap peas and carrot sticks in a Tsp of Sundried tomato and oregano dressing.

One thing I learned from all my interweb surfing about chicken leg quarters – is that unlike chicken breasts which are very important to NOT overcook as they will dry out – the longer you cook leg quarters, the juicier and better they will be. I’ve had enough chicken quarters at restaurants when the meat seemed undone (bloody even) around the bone – that this encouraged me not to worry about taking out too early, check multiple times, and allow the meat to just cook thoroughly.

Success first time! The taste was fabulous, the meat was juicy and fork tender. And my Scottish Guillermo was thrilled with the price!

So now the question is… eat the skin or take it off??? Ooooooo.

 

Silly walks and Salads

Since Guillermo has been laid off and at home, my routine & schedule is thrown right off.  May explain why i’m not blogging as much anymore.  I was in a groove.  don’t get me wrong, I LOVE having him home, but he doesn’t thrive by routine like I do.  Mealtime is the biggest issue, and then I get Hangry and cranky if I wait for him.   Today’s a typical day now that we’re both home…. it’s 2 pm, and he’s hard at work outside and doesn’t want to break to eat lunch.  He’ll be in likely by 4pm just as I’m putting dinner in the oven, drink 4 glasses of water because he’s dehydrated, eat half a loaf of bread and an apple, and look at me funny when I  try to put a dinner plate in front of him an hour or two later, because..yes, it is dinner time.  At some point we’ll have to figure it out.. cause in the meantime I do want to still prep & cook healthy meals, and not waste food.

Today he is oiling/prepping wood we just had delivered that is going to be made into raised garden beds for our beans, squash, rhubarb and other vegetables.

The weather has NOT been doing at all what it’s supposed to this week.  Today was to be sunny and warm with partly cloudy, but it’s been cold, damp and cloudy all day.  So I retreated to the kitchen, and just started pulling food out of the fridge and pantry. not sure what I was making – i was craving salad.. but not green salad.  I just started cutting up veg, and putting it in a couple different bowls until a plan came together.

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Bowl #1 became a Greek Quinoa salad.   The dishwasher was running with my one and only good mesh strainer, so I ended up pre-rinsing the quinoa 1/4 cup at a time in a tea strainer, laughing at myself while i was rinsing.    Yes, rinsing quinoa is very important to remove any bitter flavour.  I tried once cooking without rinsing, and wouldn’t try it again.  It’s not worth it.   I added 1/3 of a veg bouillon cube to the water, and simmered for 20 min (1 cup of dry quinoa rinsed, 1.5 cups water, & 1/3 bouillon cube cut up.

When it was done cooking, I dumped it on a plate to spread out and cool, and flipped about 20 min later on the plate to finish cooling.

Greek Quinoa salad

1 english cucumber chopped
10 grape tomatoes halved
1/4 cup chopped feta
1/2 yellow pepper
handful carrot sticks
~ dozen raisins for fun
2-3 chopped celery stalks
2 tbspbalsamic vinagrette
1 tbsp avocado oil
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Club House Greek seasoning


Crab Pasta salad

1 bag of spiral pasta cooked, drained, rinsed & cooled
2-3 chopped celery stalks
1/2 yellow pepper
handful carrot sticks
2 pkgs of imitation crab meat chopped.

Dressing:
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light mayo
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps dried dill
S & P to taste

Lunch is ready!

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See those cards behind my plate?   They have been keeping me busy as well the last week.   I was sending out a lot of “thinking of you” & encouragement cards in the last month, and decided to make my own greeting cards.   I made my own Christmas cards about 6 yrs ago, and thought I’d try again.  These 4 are chosen from several photos I’ve taken over the years that I had been saving for either framing or making into card art one day.

a Magnolia encircled pond in Alfred B. Maclay State Park Garden in Tallahassee Fla.
Daisies from our garden
Bumblebee on Ecchinacea (also our garden)
Tulips from Niagara Parks

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I also used photos inside 2 of the cards – one in faded colour, one in greyscale.

This verse from Romans 15:13 has been my go to prayer for those I’m writing cards to in the last month as we’ve been dealing with Isolation, fear, hopelessness, loneliness.

May the God of all HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you TRUST in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE through the POWER of the Holy Spirit.   

I think i mentioned this before, but it’s been such a blessing in return to send out cards and notes in the snail mail.  We’ve received so many phone calls, emails, and return texts of encouragement – and been getting to know some people that we normally don’t have opportunity to touch base with.


You may remember from the last blog post, I was prepping the base for some shepherd’s pies.   I put the 3 together the next morning, baked that afternoon, and we delivered with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of fresh berries.   We wanted to convey love and care to these 3 dear elderly gentlemen, and the response was great from all 3.  One of them called us 3 nights in a row (it was enough for 3-4 meals each) as he finished his dinner to again say thanks.  It took so very little effort on my part – and the appreciation was the greatest gift in return.


You may have heard about the family from Yorkshire who put a “commence silly walking sign”  by the sidewalk in front of their house… here’s a LINK  I decided to give it a try… not the silly walk, but the idea.

A friend gave me a bucket of children’s sidewalk chalk so I tackled about 6 sidewalk slabs in front of our house earlier in the week with a word or phrase on each slab.   SMILE, DANCE (we’re all watching) BUNNY HOP, SKIP, JUMP, DO the TWIST.    Hoping to get some smiles and cheer.

So far I haven’t seen any silly walking.. but I did catch one neighbour doing a Bunny Hop. 🐰  thanks for playing along!

Tonite I’m talking crispy oven fried chicken quarters for the first time.. They were realllllly inexpensive, and as we’re trying to budget, I thought I’d give it a try.. that will be next time… hope it turns out!

Peas, Potato Fries, Puzzles, Pies and Power outages

I’m writing this on Sunday evening.. last day of the weekend.  Which reminds me of one of my favourite lines by Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey.. “Wh..what is a week-end?”
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I know I’m not the only one that understands this feeling quite well now during this Pandemic.  Tomorrow I’m fulfilling a promise to myself, to bring a meal to a few of our elderly widowers.  I contacted them to let them know it was coming.. which also helps me to follow through.  After a great morning “online church service” I fried up 2 lbs of ground turkey that I had put in the fridge yesterday morning to thaw.

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ASIDE:   I’m finding that raw meat is very expensive during Covid-19, and often hard to find! The packing plants and supply chains are suffering, so i buy it frozen, so much cheaper! 4 lbs for $10 for lean ground turkey, this price has continued to hold, plus it’s very convenient, especially for someone like me who plans meals in advance.  I usually have a couple packs of these 4 lb bags in my freezer ready to pull out for casseroles, meatballs, meatloaf, spag sauce, lasagnas.. wherever gr. beef is called for, I substitute lean ground turkey.

Whenever I buy carrots, celery, onion.. I will wash and cut up the entire bunch of celery, several carrots and at least one large onion, and cook together, prepping for future meals.  Saves a lot of work when cooking later, and saves left over raw veg going bad in my fridge unused. I had made a LOT of this end of Feb (cut, panfried til still slightly crunchy, drained, cooled, then frozen) almost 2 months ago, and pulled one out, thawed a bit, and added to the fried ground turkey, and mixed in a little Veg seasoning, and salt.  Tomorrow I will boil and mash the potatoes, and assemble a few small shepherd’s pies to bake & then deliver in time for supper.   I might even make one for us.  😏

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One of our bulk purchases at the beginning of isolation was dried chick peas.  I filled a giant Costco sized pickle jar with the dried peas, and put the instructions on the side.  A couple days ago, I soaked and boiled 2 cups of the dried peas – and today baked half of them in the toaster oven for a crunchy savoury snack.   They need to be dried first before oiled in order to get the right amount of crunch.. you don’t want to steam them in the oven.   In the toaster oven on 375F convection, I added a bit of Avocado oil, smoked paprika, a pinch of salt, and Vegetable seasoning.   I stirred them every 10 min til they had the right colour.. about 30 min total.    If it seems odd to re-hydrate peas, then roast/dry them again.. believe me, I wondered the same.. but the dried peas in the jar just don’t do it for me.  😉 

These are my basics that are always at hand for a LOT of my recipes.. Greek Seasoning, Vegetable Seasoning, Smoked Paprika, S&P, and Avocado Oil (AO).   AO has a much higher smoking point that Olive Oil, and great for high temps in the fry pan or oven.

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Our power went out for 2 hours this afternoon, likely due to the really high winds we’re getting here in Niagara Peninsula. (a yearly experience in late April)

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The outage was only in our little town, we figured it wouldn’t be too long, so we opened up and started our 3rd 1000 pc puzzle, this one of Positano, Italy.  We sorted, edged (except for TWO pieces we haven’t located yet) and puzzled for over 4 hours and managed to get a good portion of the outside done.

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A few days ago I was REALLLLLLY craving French Fries  I don’t buy the frozen ones or keep them in the house.. too tempting.  I’ve tried to make them from scratch before, but never had much luck.. so I did some googling.  I found several sources that all said the same thing.. if you want crispy fries.. you have to soak the sliced potatoes, and you have to dry them.

So that’s what I did.   I scrubbed/washed 4 medium sized potatoes, and cut them into approx 1/4″ thick fries, rinsed them a few times, and then put them in a bowl, and poured boiling water from the kettle over them, and let them sit for ~10 minutes.

During that time, I heat up the oven, with my very old and well seasoned baking stone IN the oven to preheat to 450 degrees.

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After 10 minutes soak in hot water, drain the bowl, and put unbaked fries on a towel to dry thoroughly.  Wipe and dry out the bowl, and put dried potatoes back in the bowl, add ~1-2 tbsp oil, and your favourite seasonings.   I found THIS great recipe  that really does a much better job laying out how to do this than I.   I used dill, smoked paprika, S & P, and garlic powder.  I then pulled the stone out of the oven, (careful, a stone is MUCH hotter than a cookie sheet!)  brushed some Av. Oil on the pan, and then spread out the seasoned fries, and returned to oven to bake for about 15-20 min.  After 15 min, I turned all the fries, and put back in for another 15 min.  I find that my gas oven tends to run a little colder than most recipes call for, and after 30 min total, they weren’t quite as crispy looking as I’d like, so I added another 7 minutes.. which ended up being perfect for me.

A bit of work, but so worth it to still the raving hormonal beast craving inside.  So crispy on the outside, and still soft potato fluffy on the inside.. just perfect.  Needless to say.. there weren’t any leftovers… but if you did make these, and somehow managed to have leftovers… (I would think you were supernatural or super disciplined, or just plain nuts)..   Erin from Well Plated does address the best way to re-heat left over fries so they’re crispy again.

mmmm’mmm…  In blogging about these fries, I can see another ‘hankering’ coming on… we’re doing groceries tomorrow, I’ve meal planned for the next couple of weeks & made my list.. I should double check if I put potatoes on the list… 😏 😉 😀

 

 

Bruschetta Chicken, Crustless Quiche and Take-them-a-meal

Good Saturday Evening, Blogosphere..  I’m sorry I’ve slowed down in my blogging, I’ve actually been quite busy.. and not taking the time to write – which is why we’ve been getting 2-3 recipes per blog post recently.

Our church family welcomed a new baby girl this week, so I’ve been arranging meals for the family, taking a couple to them, as well as another family who’ve been struggling with illnesses (not Covid) and just needed some encouragement.

A few years ago, I discovered the website Takethemameal.com – it’s FREE and such a great way to organize meal delivery for individuals or families who are either welcoming a new baby, dealing with loss of a loved one, grief, illness… or whatever the reason may be.  Our church has been using it now for a few years, and I’ve been invited as well to join a friend’s schedule when our neighbour was dying from ALS, and we had a meal schedule for the family for a few months.  If you haven’t used it or heard of it.. please check it out:   takethemameal.com

Once you sign up to “take a meal” – the schedule will send you a personal reminder a day before with something to the effect of:  “Hey Amy, you are signed up to take a meal to the Smiths tomorrow, and  you’re bringing meatloaf, rice pilaf and a salad”   The ladies that started this website are genius.

I’m hoping to set up a small schedule of a couple meals a month (or more!) for 3 widowers in our church during Covid-19.  Two of these men are in their 90’s and were reliant on meal delivery services for a couple meals a week that are no longer coming.  I’m hoping to get a few more people on board to bless these men with some encouragement and a few good healthy square meals.

I brought “lunch” instead of dinner to my 2 young families this week, because it was easier for me at the time.. and I was inspired.  A quiche, salad & a loaf of fresh hot baked bread. Today’s quiche looked quite good.  I will try to lay out my “recipe” though quite honestly.. it changes every time, and there is no measuring at all.  More just a couple squirts, a drop or two, a few shakes… but I’m guessing the below is pretty close.

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Amy’s Crustless Quiche
Preheat oven to 350

Whisk in one bowl:
9 eggs (whisk first)
~ 1 tbsp French’s yellow mustard
~ 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
~ 2 tbsp 10% cream
Clubhouse Greek seasoning
(set bowl aside)

Spray a 9″ round pie plate with baking spray.

scrub/wash & dry 2 potatoes (or one large)
poke potatoes all over with a fork, and microwave for 3 min, turn and micro another 2 min if needed – done when potatoes are soft to the touch on exterior.  Take out and slice to about 1/4″ thick, and line bottom of pie plate.

The quiche pictured above had cubed ham, then half a red pepper, about 6 asparagus spears, and 3 green onions (with white parts) all chopped and layered on top the ham, with about half a cup of Tex Mex cheese, then the egg mixture, grape tomatoes and Arugula on top.

…. but you CAN layer on top of the potatoes any combo of the following (or come up with your own fun combos!) :  cubed ham, cut up small broccoli, chopped red pepper, asparagus, baby spinach, cooked sausage, (i remove from skin and cook like burger, and drain fat).. (if using mushrooms, onions, or zucchini.. you’ll need to panfry these first, then drain so most of the liquid is gone, otherwise quiche will not set) sprinkle grated cheese on top of meat/veg.

Pour egg mixture over everything.  Decorate the top with arugula or baby spinach and halved grape tomatoes.

Bake for ~ 50-55 minutes.  Take out and let sit for at least 10 minutes to finish setting.

I made “Chicken Coup” salad with my fresh garden kale, baked a loaf of our Multigrain bread and delivered hot.


While I’m pretty confident now in my cooking at home for the 2 of us, I do get nervous cooking for guests and bringing meals to people.  Quiche, cheesy shepherd’s pie and “Salad Bar in a box” are my go to’s for taking a meal, but if I’m bringing to the same person more than once.. I need to up my game, and learn some more meals that aren’t all casseroles.  Same goes with meals at home for guests.. I want to be prepared as well for quick easy meals using ingredients in the house if we have surprise guests. So part of this time during Covid-19, I want to beef up my arsenal of “tried and true”, recipes I know will work for families with young kids, those with more refined tastes, those with health/food restrictions, or the healthy eaters.. in other words.. being a well rounded cook.

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Tonite’s meal would fall under “families”, no allergy restrictions, made in 35 min including prep, and a possible crowd pleaser.  This recipe for “BRUSHETTA CHICKEN BAKE”came out of a Kraft What’s Cooking magazine years ago, with “Amy alterations”.   Stove Top Turkey Stuffing Mix was on sale last time I did a grocery run for .79 cents a box, so I picked up a couple with this recipe in mind.  It’s SUPER simple.

Combine 1 can of stewed tomatoes with box of stuffing mix & 2 cloves of minced garlic, set aside.  (note, only stewed tomatoes i had in the house were chili seasoned which I thought might be interesting)

Cube 4 (thawed) chicken breasts, and lay in a sprayed 9×13 baking dish

top chicken with dried (or fresh if you have it!) basil (I had NEITHER, so I substituted oregano)  and 1 cup of shredded Moz cheese (I use Kirkland Tex Mex), then top with the stuffing/tomato/garlic mix.

bake in 400F oven for 30 min.  When there was 10 min left, I put a small pan of fresh broccoli florets in the oven,  tossed with a bit of Avocado oil, parm cheese, fresh cracked pepper and greek seasoning.

I’m curious what it would have tasted like had I actually followed the recipe to a T, (using  Stove Top for chicken, plain stewed tomatoes, basil, only Mozz cheese..)  But this combo was really delicious.   Not your healthiest meal with breading & cheese.. but definitely super simple and yummy.


 

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We finished our Springbok 1000 pc puzzle “Spring Wedding” so I put out a feeler on Facebook to see if there were any friends wanting to exchange puzzles.. i had quite a bit of responses, and see friends of mine from different areas of life who don’t know each other who are exchanging.. it’s quite fun!  Our next puzzle will be this gorgeous one of Positano, Italy that I picked up from a dear elementary school friend.  I can’t wait to get it started!

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so.. what are you doing to pass the time during “self Isolation?” My hope is that we’re coming to a good balance of serving, working, blessing/helping others, getting things done on our “to do” lists, exercising, rest, fun, reading, visiting (safely) and a bit of Netflix bingeing of course.  😉

The NutCrocker & Agoraphobia

It’s a really weird combination… ones I would never think to put together.. but somehow, these simple ingredients work.  This took me less than 5 minutes to assemble and click GO.

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1 cup medium salsa
1/3 cup light Peanut Butter (i used full regular crunchy.. more on that below)
2 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp honey (i used our smoked honey for this one)
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp curry.. (woops, i put in more like a tbsp by accident… but can there REALLY be too much curry??)

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whisk all that together in the crock pot (no dirty dishes other than your measuring tools!)
top with 12 boneless skinless chicken thighs, and then evenly coat the chicken on all sides.

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put on LOW 5-6 hours, or HIGH 2-3.   I did LOW for 6 as my thighs were still partially frozen. (note: it was too long – I quit early, 4 hours on LOW was more than enough – may vary due to heat of each crock pot.. my LOW setting seems to still be quite high)

OPTION: Garnish chicken with chopped green onions and chopped peanuts.

We had Indian Style Basmati rice and stir fry veg as side dishes. This Basmati rice came from Bulk barn, and I LOVE it.  It’s quick and so flavourful.. lots of fun stuff in it.  I labelled the jar with the ingredients and instructions.

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plated Nutcrocker chicken, stir fry mushrooms/peas/grape tomatoes & Indian Basmati rice

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Guillermo was watching, listening, and smelling his bread baking all afternoon – this was his first time making it, the recipe has always been in my head – not written down, so I typed it out for him today, and taped it to the front of the breadmaker so he could continue to make it.  He goes through a loaf in 2 days – so it’s nice if he can make it now too.

My recipe makes a fairly dense loaf, mainly because we add more grain, seeds and use a less processed whole grain flour I pick up from bulk barn instead of whole wheat.  He loves it that way, if you’re into fluffy airy bread, this isn’t that.  It’s more than just 12 grain – i couldn’t tell you how many grains/seeds are in it.. i change up the seeds I add in partway through.  Sometimes hemp, flax, chia, sesame.. whatever jar my hand grabs that day.  Here’s my recipe if you have the same type breadmaker:

WHOLE GRAIN BREAD

TOOLS:

Liquid measuring cup (1 ¼ cupper)
1 tsp ¼ tsp
1 cup, ½ cup, ¼ cup
small scraper

Warm up the bread pan (not too hot!)

Place ingredients in pan in this order:

1 ¼ cup luke warm water/milk mixture
1 ¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
2ish tbsp honey
1.5 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup 12 grain cereal (from Bulk Barn)
1 ¼ tsp yeast

press MENU button til GRAIN is lit up and hit START
bake time:  4 hrs 10 min

When machine beeps loudly about 1 hr in, you can add seeds – about 2-3 tbsps.

We finally (ok I did it) broke up the Vienna puzzle and started the next one. A lovely country church wedding scene.  Emptying the box and sorting is kinda cathartic for me.  I can’t quite describe it..  I don’t know if it’s the tactile nature of touching all the pieces when we are “hands off” everything right now, or if it’s organizing (I do love organizing) but this process of quietly sitting and taking this pile and sorting it by colours and parts of scenes did my heart good.  Calming.

Today is “errands” day.  We woke up early to head out to get mom’s groceries and make some deliveries.   I admit to being a bit anxious.  Perhaps I’m becoming agoraphobic.  I feel safe, protected, clean and well in my home.   I can breathe & relax here.    Every time I have to go out to a store I feel exposed and feel as though i need to go home and bathe in sanitizer.  However, I have to say, there is something about early morning shopping.  We were in the (very clean) store with an empty parking lot just after 8 am, no line up, in and out the store fairly quickly with our 2 lists completed.

It was a gift to be that protected, (thanks God!)   I think there were only 5 other shoppers in the whole store with us this morning, which is unheard of.   I don’t need to be anxious for ANYTHING.  God is Sovereign over all, and I am in His mighty hands.