Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Recipe

I found a new recipe on the net, somewhere, by someone named Zinn.  Came across it in a blog I read, but I forget where.  I've made something similar, but this one included noodles, so it would be sufficient for an entire meal.  Contrary to my usual habit, I didn't make it strictly according to recipe the first time, but changed it to make it more of a whole meal.

Here's the original:
CHICKEN CORDON BLEU CASSEROLE
Ingredients:
4 cups of cooked egg noodles
1 pound of skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
2 cups of trimmed lean ham cut into small pieces.
1 can of low-fat cream of chicken soup
5 slices of reduced-salt Swiss cheese
1 cup of bread crumbs
Spray butter or oil
Cooking spray

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spray a 13" x 9" baking pan with cooking spray.  Combine the chicken, ham, noodles and soup in a large bowl.
3. Put half the noodle mixture in the pan.
4. Place Swiss cheese slices on top of the noodle mixture in the pan in one layer.
5. Place the rest of the noodle mixture on top of the cheese slices and smooth it down.
6. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs.  Then spray the top with spray butter or oil.
7. Bake for 35 minutes.  The casserole should be hot and bubbly.

It should make about eight servings.

We seldom eat casserole, but because it's sometimes my turn to bring lunch to our country quilting group, I keep an eye out for a new, good looking recipe.

I made a half recipe for the two of us and added the following:
2 cups of peas
1/2 onion diced
1 can of sliced mushrooms.
I baked it in a 9" x 9" teflon pan.
I subsituted creme of mushroom soup for the creme of chicken soup.

It turned out very well, and the half recipe was enough for the two of us for two meals.  The second meal is still in the freezer, waiting for a day when I don't feel like cooking, or run out of time.

Serve it with a nice salad and you're all set!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Lap Quilt

After the kids and grandkids left two weeks ago yesterday I started a new quilting project.  That's my idea of a nice treat.

I had a bag of strips that someone had given to me and started sewing them together, a light and dark.  They were approximately 3" x 6 1/2".  After trimming them and cutting them in half, I sewed these halves to other halves and ended up with several four patch squares.  These went up on the design board--there were about 24 of them.

That got to be kind of boring, so I looked for another design and found this:
It's from one of those "block a day" quilt calendars.  I think it looks a little dull in blue and white, but thought it would adapt very well to a "scrappy" look.  So I hauled out all my boxes of quilting fabrics and a found pieces that would work.  I needed 6" squares to make the half square triangles, one square light and the other square dark, giving the squares which are diagonally half white and half blue.

These were faster to make than the four patch squares and quickly added up to enough for a large lap quilt.  So here's the completed top.

I like it a lot and enjoyed making it.  It comes out of the odds and ends that weren't being used for anything else.  The narrow inner border and wider outer border came from larger pieces in the stash that had been bought for another purpose and then not used.

I plan to bind it with the same material as the dark red of the inner border.

Yesterday I went to the LQS and bought some flannel for the back, a nice deep rusty red with deer antlers sprinkled around.  That cost just over $27, but I have almost a meter left for another project.  It was the end of the bolt, so I bought what they had.  That was a good thing, because it shrank when I washed it, as flannels will, and went from 46" wide (just what I needed) to 43" wide, necessitating a piece added along the side.

This will be a "comfort" quilt that our local quilt club gives to people suffering from some personal problems such as cancer treatments, house fires, etc.  It's a good masculine looking quilt and a good size (46" x 56"), large for a lap quilt so it will be good for some large fellow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Store Eggs/Farm Eggs

We are very fortunate to have a source of fresh, free range eggs available.  My good friend and quilting buddy Linda lives on a farm about 8 miles from here  She and her husband have a flock of about 200 hens who run happily about the farmyard all day, finding edibles and enjoying the fresh air.  At night they return to their coop and Wally closes and latches the door to keep them safe from coyotes.

Once in a while I run out of eggs and think I'm too busy to go pick up some fresh eggs, or even to ask Linda if she's coming this way soon. Then I buy a dozen from the local IGA.  It's always a mistake, because we are just spoiled by those good, rich farm eggs.  That's how it was when I fried eggs for the Dear One for breakfast this week.  Using the last "store" egg and the first "farm" egg gave quite a contrast:
The farm egg is on the right, of course.  The rich yellow comes from the natural foods that the hens find around the farmyard.  The farm egg looks smaller than the store egg, but that's only because the white is so much firmer.  It's actually a larger egg. An egg white that holds it shape is a sure sign of a fresh egg.

Here's a view of the inside of their spacious quarters:
Looks like an authentic hen house to me.  I took this picture a few years ago when D.D.#2 and her children visited the farm with me.  We also got to see a big litter of brand new little piglets at that time.












Grandson #3 was allowed to find an egg in a nest, pick it up and take it home with him.  I made sure that he had that egg for breakfast the next morning. This is one of our enjoyments in life: farm fresh eggs with home made whole wheat toast, topped with fresh home made raspberry jam.  Yum!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Storms

When I began to grow vegetables in 2003 I took a spiral notebook and wrote a date on each sheet, beginning with April 1 and started keeping a "garden journal."  The idea was to remind myself of what had worked well that year and what needed to be changed when I started the next season of gardening.  Each day I wrote down the low temperature, the day's high, weather occurrences, plantings and harvests.  I don't write on each date, but usually get something down about the day.

On yesterday's date, July 18, I wrote something on all but one year since then.  Of those eight years, there were five that saw a thunderstorm on that date.  Yesterday was no exception.  We had a storm with oodles of lightning that got us up between 3 and 3:30 a.m.  Then in the evening we had another storm that looked pretty severe on the radar as it started south and west of us.  I kept a lookout, and took some pictures as it approached, went through, and then left us on its way east and north.

Here's the approaching storm, coming in from the west, taken in two shots, one the southern part and the other the northern end.

I tried to get these to stay side by side, but they are just too big to do that, and I don't want to make them smaller.










There was lots of lightning and rumbling thunder.  I watched the bottom of the clouds with concern, since tornadoes are possible here, although there was no tornado watch announced by the weather department.

Next is a video of the storm in progress as it swept by, bending trees and swirling leaves as it went.

video
This is my first try at posting a video, so I hope this works!

There's a funny little bit at the end in which the camera goes upside down.  Sorry about that!  I was trying to take a "portrait"  rather than a "landscape" oriented shot.

And here's the back of the storm lit by
the almost-setting sun in a majestic
way.

















And, finally, the peaceful western sky just after sunset, about 9:40 p.m.







I love the sky here.  We see the horizon almost 360ยบ, our view blocked only by our garden centre buildings to the south, by the ridge of land about a half mile to the east, a ridge of land about 12 miles to the west, and the hills a mile and half to the north.  That gives us a lot of sky to look at, and we can often see two or three weather "happenings" at once.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Canola

 A while ago I posted a picture that included the bright yellow of a field of blooming canola across the road from our place.  That field belongs to my good friend and walking companion and her husband.  There's another field, just north of town that they also farm, which has a fantastic canola crop blooming on it.  Every time we
walk by it, I wish I had my camera to take a picture for you to see it up close.  So today we went back (in the car!) with the camera to get this picture.  That's M standing in the midst of the canola.  It's right up to her chin!

She and her husband, with the help of a few part-time workers, farm 5,000 acres in this vicinity.  Some land is theirs, but much is rented, including our little 12 acre field north of our yard.  L. rotates crops in order to preserve and build up the land.

To give you an idea how big 5,000 acres is, imagine driving along a country road.  On your left hand, for 18 miles, stretching 1/2 mile to your left from the road, all that land makes up enough "quarters" (quarter sections) to make up 5,000 acres. A section is a surveyed area 1 mile square.  So a quarter section is 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile.  That assumes that some of the land has creeks running through it, sloughs, and other obstructions that the farmer has to go around in his seeding and harvesting.

To farm these big fields, the farmers on the Canadian prairies use the very largest equipment produced in the world: huge tractors, seeders, sprayers and combines.
Perhaps in the Russian grain areas these enormous machines are also used.  Sometime this summer or fall, I'll try to get a picture of some of these monsters.

Canola has an interesting history: it was developed by Canadian scientists from rapeseed, which had an unacceptably high level of erucic acid, toxic to humans at that level.  In the second world war, the oil from rapeseed was used as a lubricant in tanks, etc.  By interbreeding with other plants they produced a low level erucic acid plant in the mustard family, which was given the name Canola, a shortened form of Canadian Oil.  It is sold as a healthy oil, and I've used it for a long time in baking bread, buns, and loaf cakes, as per a recipe for Cranberry/orange loaf that I posted recently.

In looking up erucic acid today, I found some articles that claim it is an unhealthy oil, so maybe I should do a little more research.  It can be confusing to us ordinary folks to sort out all the claims and counter claims.

Here's a photo of a canola field in southern Alberta in 1975.  Oh, and in the midst of the canola is a younger version of Jim and myself.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Funny Corn

Remember the corn I grew last year? I posted it on September 4, 2010.  It towered over my head, but had precious few ears, and only two of those ears ever ripened enough to be eaten.

This year we have the opposite story.  This is a new variety called Vitality (from William Dam Seeds in Ontario).  It's a bicoloured hybrid, much like Peaches & Cream that I grew last year.  But this is supposed to mature in just 66-68 days.

Jim started the seed in the greenhouse in March while I was away in Chile.  He planted it out in the raised bed in April, and was really fortunate that we needed to cover it only three times to protect it from frost.

Jim is reading the Toronto Globe and Mail right now; that's his Saturday treat.  So I don't want to bother him to take my picture with this short corn.  The tallest plants come only to my shoulders, and the average plant is just to my waist.

They are not wasting energy on leaves, but each plant has an average of three cobs, close to the ground.  I'm really interested to see what we get here!  Edible corn by the end of July?

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Catching Up

Had an email today from my dear cousin Joan, wondering if I am ill because I have not written a blog post for over two weeks.  No, I'm fine!  Dear Son #2, wife and two daughters, and Dear Daughter #2, husband, son and daughter all came for a visit in these past two weeks.  What a treat!  So there was lots of cooking, visiting and crafting going on.

DS and family arrived on Saturday evening, July 2.  So good to see them!  Last time we saw them was at Canadian Thanksgiving last October.  The girls are now 8 1/2 and 11 1/2.  They both have their birthdays in December.

The project we decided to do this year was a small quilt (24" x 24").  So Sunday afternoon while DS took the girls to the local swimming pool, DDIL and I hauled out boxes of material to choose some possible fabric combinations.  We chose some pink and green materials.  We cut squares and started sewing them together.  Before we knew it, the top of the quilt was complete (helps that it was a small quilt), so I started doing the machine quilting.  We chose these nice, deep pink hearts to applique here and there.  All that was left to do was to apply the binding.  Well, it gave the girls a good idea of what they were aiming at with their quilts!  And it was fun to do.  DDIL had never quilted before, so this gave her a good understanding of the construction steps involved in creating a finished quilt.

Monday the girls chose their materials and we all started working on their quilts.  The younger daughter sewed the pairs of squares together, and that was as far as her enthusiasm took her.  DDIL did the rest of the sewing on her quilt.  Hers features dancing ballerinas.  That afternoon, while DDIL took the girls to the swimming pool, I did the machine quilting.  The bindings are cut, but not applied, so DDIL will do that at home.

Her older sister wanted to do all the sewing herself, and was doing a fine job.  But then on Tuesday evening, DD#2 and her family arrived.  These cousins see each other about once a year, so from the time they arrived, the four kids disappeared downstairs and played together for the rest of the visit.  (That's why I like to have an overlapping visit: they get to see each other, but we get to spend time with the grandkids on each end of the overlap.)  So  that granddaughter's quilt went home to be finished.

Here's the four grands together, taking a minute out from all their activities to pose for Grammy.  The two youngest girls have their "cousin" sweaters on, but you can see that the one sweater is incomplete.  The sleeves are a little too short, which I suspected and therefore didn't sew them in.  I'll reknit the sleeve caps to make them two inches longer.  It also needs the buttons sewed on.

When that's finished, her big sister would like to have a sweater just like it.  That's a good thing, because I have a LOT of yarn left over!  All because someone gave me the green yarn.  I didn't even ask the grandson if he wanted one--too girly, I'm sure.

On Thursday the first crew left, and then it was time to start the craft project with the youngest granddaughter.  She had been saying she wants to learn to knit, so mom said, I know just the person to teach you!  We sat down together and started a simple scarf.  DGD is just six years old, will be seven in August, but she did wonderfully well.  The first day we knit two rows.  I did most of the first row, showing her carefully each separate step to making a stitch.  Then she took over.  I had told her it would be hard, and it was.  It took a lot of concentration on her part, but she did it!  The next day I knit a few stitches as a review and then she knit two rows.  The third day she knit three rows by herself.  I videotaped that, but don't know how to get it from the IMovie to the blog.  Near the end of the third row she exclaims, "I'm almost finished!" and I reply, "Yes, you're getting so fast!"  I'll play that tape several times over the next months, and enjoy it over and over.

We had lovely weather for most of their visits, and our landscape is at its best right now.  Flowers and shrubs are in bloom and the field across the road is turning a bright, chrome yellow with the blooming canola.

Life is full and life is good!

P.S. The youngest granddaughter wants to make a quilt next year!