Oat and Red Fife Crackers

We've been out and about lately.
We've been living it up at the beach...

At my friend C's place, meeting her chickens....

Generally enjoying the freedom of getting up when we like and getting started when we like and all that goes along with not scheduling ourselves into oblivion during the summer.  Being at C's place is always great for me.  It speaks to my longing to 'get out'.  I feel almost jealous.  We had a great talk although it was too short.  Even though I had the kids with me they are now at an age where C and I can scoot out for a while and have some unfettered time to chat.
We talk a lot about food.  Because we both love food.  I always take food up when I go.  It's not because I feel like I need to or anything but just because I know that C is someone who loves food as much as I do - we can enjoy sharing the food together.

Our lunch together was some of my Eggplant and Tomato Pizza, 2 kinds of homemade pickles (I was in heaven), whole grain toast, hummus, cold eggplant curry, yellow cherry tomatoes from the garden and locally sourced cheese made from raw milk (again in heaven and the blue cheese was to die for... I almost asked for some honey to go along with it).  How about that for a fantastic lunch.
C and her partner B are constantly adding to their garden space and are really slowly morphing into a farm.  Their commitment to living life differently never ceases to awe me.  They have added a generous number of fruit trees to their land and even use the word 'orchard'... cool.  The nut trees are doing well. Their blackberries have had a rough go with the dry summer this year but damn they tasted good.  It would just take forever to pick a significant amount because they're so small.

The big addition to the family this year are the 9 chickens (Bantam's I believe but don't quote me on that... I'll deny it) that now have a lovely home in the back.  I've been thinking about chickens a lot after reading this book - Joel suggests that everyone should at least consider having a few chickens roaming around... for all kinds of good reasons.  It was great to see it happening for real with C.  All of the chickens have a name (yes, even though they know that these beauties won't be around forever... so to speak) and they wander around happily, cooing and pecking at whatever they can get at.  They have a little outdoor haven under the big pine tree close to their coop.  Their coop was hand crafted by B and it's a fortress.  Of course they had some set backs, an aggressive rooster and a chicken pecker that had to be *ahem* dealt with but for the most part these girls are happy to coo together and eat the kitchen scraps that get fed to them.  They haven't started laying yet but they are starting to brood inside the coop so it must be coming soon.  My kids are in love.  They want chickens.  Kid #2 nearly cried when he found out that we couldn't actually bring some of the chickens home with us.
What I did come home with though was a huge jar of honey (that I have to send C some money for - thanks for the reminder) made by one of their neighbours, some local corn, blueberries and 2 butter tarts.  Next time I head up I'm going to organize ahead of time with C to get some of that locally sourced cheese because it was amazing.  I dreamt about the cheese last night... that's how bad it's gotten for me.  When I get that cheese I'm going to share with all my friends and make sure that I have some of these with me.

I don't buy crackers any more because it takes so damn long for us to get through them.  This recipe makes the perfect amount and the taste is fantastic.  Just the right amount of butter and oats.  Perfect for blue cheese with a little honey on top... damn.

Seed and Oat, Red Fife Crackers adapted from BBC GoodFood website
makes about 2 dozen crackers depending on the size you go for

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup red fife flour
2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt and red pepper flakes
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
10 or so tbsp of water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the oats, flours, baking soda, salt and mix.  - I divided my flour mixture in half at this point and placed them in separate bowls - Add in the red pepper flakes, sesame and poppy seeds and mix.
Add in the butter and mix well.  Add in just enough water so that it forms a firm dough ball.
Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick or so.  Using a cookie cutter or a knife cut the dough sheet into whatever shapes you want.
Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until the crackers are just beginning to turn golden.  Remove and place the crackers on a cooling rack.  Cool completely before eating or packaging to give away.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pizza with Polenta Crust

It's variations on a theme in my kitchen these days.  I know that I just posted this great looking tomato galette with goat cheese and this looks a whole lot like the same thing.  It is a little different though.  I promise.  Even though it does look similar.  This one is... pizza.  Kinda.  Jeez.  Who cares... it looks great, it smells out of this world and it tastes fantastic.
I was originally inspired by these crazy things.

These, my dear friends, are the eggplants that came in my food box this week.  Their awesome, weird, quirky and beautiful.  Right.  They are also small - at least for eggplant.  The traditional thing that we call eggplant.  I considered many options for these specialties.  It started as a focaccia, morphed into a pie and then transformed into this final product... cornmeal crust pizza.  Let's face it, who wants to fuss too much right now?  Summer is in full swing and I'm all about doing as little as possible in the kitchen ...until maybe next week when my canning gets into full swing... anyone up for canning 3 bushels of tomatoes with me?

I'm feeling remarkably unfettered these days.  My garden hasn't produced nearly as well as I'd hoped but I have zucchini and somehow that's making up for my dud tomatoes.  I'm not depressed about it at all.  I'm valuing highly being able to sit at the park and read while Kid #2 rolls down the hill and swings off a bar like a monkey.  It's been amazing being able to bbsit for KT while she gets some medical attention - it's things like this that I can't do any other time of year without serious time crunching.  Today we went down to the beach and Kids #1 and #2 just played in sand and threw rocks into the water and algae at each other.  I watched in blissful quiet.  It won't last long, I know.  Already the sand in the summer hourglass is running low.  I'm determined to savour it.  To live in the moment I've got and be thankful... while I drink my beer on the back deck.  Sure the kids are probably eating way too much ice cream than should be legal.  Sure, weekly movie night now has an 's' on the end.  But it's important to have the balance in life.  I was talking to a friend recently who didn't want to hear anything bad or negative.  I understand the sentiment - it's not easy nor is it enjoyable to have sadness around you.  To talk about it or dwell on it.  But it does help me better appreciate joy.  It gives the good times depth - I need the sad to fully understand the happy... to put it simply.  It's the same for me with quiet.  I know what would happen if everyday life were like this for me.  All too easily I would start to take the quiet for granted and then it would become boredom.  Boredom which I would soon start to resent.  It would be completely lost on me if I weren't functioning on the knowledge that this is only for a time.  Even canning, though a time consuming job, is calming and soothing when you can take it at your own pace.  These things can even be comforting.  Soon the busy will be back and hopefully I'll be able to appreciate the structure and security that it gives me.  For now, I'm sitting back and listening to birds calling to each other, to the kids crying next door, staring up at an full blue sky... hearing the grass grow as they say.

So, here's to easy, delicious food that gives us all a little time to stop and smell the zucchini flowers.

Roasted tomato and eggplant polenta crust pizza adapted from 'BrownEyedBaker' and Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia
serves 6

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups veggie broth
1 tsp salt

1 med/small Eggplant, thinly slice (1/4 - 1/8th of an inch)
1 - 2 med/small tomatoes, sliced the same thickness as the eggplant (relatively)
salt to taste
olive oil to drizzle
a few leaves of basil and oregano roughly ripped up
1/2 cup (ish) goat cheese
1/2 cup (ish) parmesan cheese - freshly grated is ideal here

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
slice the eggplant to about 1/4 - 1/8th of an inch thickness.  Sprinkle with salt and toss with olive oil.  Place each piece side by side on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 15 min on each side.  Remove from the oven and let the pieces cool
Bring the milk and veggie broth to a simmer.  Add in the cornmeal and whisk until dissolved into the liquid.  Turn the heat down a little and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until the cornmeal thickens to the consistency of thick porridge.  Remove from heat and cool for about 10 minutes.
Turn onto a lined baking sheet and press out to about 1/4 inch thickness in any shape you want.
Bake for about 15 minutes just to brown the crust a little.
Remove from oven
Add the sliced tomato and the roasted eggplant alternately, overlapping them just a bit, over top of the crust.  Sprinkle with salt and just a little olive oil.  Add little dabs of goat cheese here and there.  Tuck in little bits of basil and oregano around as well.  Sprinkle the parmesan over the whole thing and bake for about 25 - 30 minutes or until the cheese is just golden and the tomato is looking 'cooked'.
Cool for about 15 minutes before cutting.

Montreal and my first potato harvest

I promised you an update on my very very little trip to Montreal.   D was in Germany and Kid #1 and #2 were kinda needing a little change.  I decided at the last minute to drive us down to Montreal and kick around for a day.  We got to visit family... D has family who live on a lovely, quiet island just north west of the island of Montreal.  Dinner was at 6:30 every evening, wine was opened and 4 generations were at the table.  That is pretty amazing.  We took a walk after our dinner, just around the island or through the extensive gardens.  We happened upon this little guy wandering through the greens - looking for a snack no doubt.

Kid #1 and #2 got into some serious adventures on the tree house - named 'Washington' by our hosts grandson.

We, of course, found our way to Amelio's for pizza.  Fortunately, we met up with some friends there.  That meant that when I order 3 whole pizza's for the 3 of us (me, kid #1 (11yr) and kid #2 (6 yr) that the table didn't look disgustingly lopsided - we have happily eaten Amelio's pizza leftovers for  days now.

I was, unfortunately, taking the picture (although you may have noticed I'm not a fan of getting my picture taken)
We also came home with copious amounts of beer (amazing Quebec micro brews) and bagels.

Before the harvest...
Once I got home I decided it was time to get to the potatoes.  I essentially don't know what I'm doing here.  I've gotten some advice from a friend who grew up on a farm and mostly knows what he's doing (thanks T).  That helped a lot.  He's the one who told me that I could always dig things up and then put them back in again if there are really small potatoes that still need to grow.  Alright then.
So this is my first harvest.  I'm happy with what I've pulled out so far.  I figure that I'll let some of these start to get eyes on them and then I'll throw them back in the ground too... why not.

After the harvest, with replanted potato plants.
Sorry, the pic capital 'S' Sucks
On the blog front I've been getting a lot more traffic lately.  I joined tasteologie and this canadian site called recipes.ca (a very nice commentor left that recommendation for me and I took her advice).  I don't know if that's what's causing the traffic or not but it's kinda freakin' me out.  I guess in a good way.
Last but not nearly least... the zucchini plant paint brush sex worked... first harvest of zucchini's.  It's a good day.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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