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As the sun turns

We just passed the Autumn Solstice, and the weather shifted accordingly here, the shorter days cooling off immediately.

I saw a beautiful online card that depicted the changing of the season, with singing blackbirds and falling oak leaves. It gave a romantic sense of melancholy, a gentle portrayal of the shift.

I don’t see delicate blackbirds, but rather giant ravens. They don’t sing, they squawk. They don’t flit about, they swoop – some would say like a bad omen, but I find them somehow majestic, even if in a sinister way. When they come close enough, you can hear the pounding drumbeat as the wind is moved under their wings.

I do see shorter days, and more golden light from those days. I see leaves on the ground now that the fruit is all picked, and pumpkins disappearing from the fields and piling up in bins at the farm market stalls.

October has started, and many are thinking of Halloween. I find this year has been scary enough without thinking of more ghosts and goblins. We have had a plethora of spiders this summer and they offered plenty of atmosphere to give that sense of spookiness.

I feel in limbo. I am working hard inside to put up the harvest in preparation for winter, but also trying to soak in the afternoon autumn sun. The summer priorities are coming to a close as the garden gets wrapped up and I must move on to studying and other indoor work. It’s too early for Christmas decorations but the house feels bleak and dark with shorter days.

Perhaps I am just getting used to being that much older. Thank goodness for granddaughters, who bring light and promise into the world.

Can’t be Wasting

I am a product of my upbringing. The tales of root cellars where everything was preserved, my Grampa’s stories of living during the war when things were rationed, and the prevalence of farm culture from both my parents’ prairie life – all these elements combined with those Little House on the Prairie volumes in my head to make me thrifty in the kitchen.

little-house-on-the-prairie books

Gramps used to say when I refused the last morsel, “Can’t be wasting!”, and I would capitulate. It was like referring to those starving kids in Africa. I often wondered, would they eat sandwich crusts?

This time of year is when we work to save and store. It’s the end of harvest of course, so it’s a mad dash to make sure as little is wasted as possible. Some of the bounty doesn’t get used – it’s impossible to eat it all, even when we share. But I am heartened when I remember my farmer neighbour’s words that everything going back to the ground helps the soil for the following year. Mother Nature provides.

We dried fruit and canned chutney and jam and made hot sauce and kimchi and infused vinegars and oils. I baked bread and pies and bread pudding. I roasted squash and tomatoes and put them in the freezer. my last effort is to plan menus for the next couple of weeks so we can use the last of the arugula, green beans and green tomatoes.

It can be exhausting. I have new admiration for the pioneer housewives and their fortitude in the face of such a daunting task: providing a variety of flavours for a household through a cold, dark winter. Before there were OXO cubes, Heinz ketchup and Classico pasta sauce, there were women who kept everyone from losing their minds over endless bowls of turnip soup and boiled potatoes with mutton.

Perhaps the return of Outlander on TV has given me my second wind… are there any other fans among my readers? If Claire could manage to survive in a kitchen-of-old, then surely I can do it too.

My inspiration this weekend is to use the last of the apples and some quince with my final trimmings from the mint to make a sort of preserve that I’d like to use for both sweet and savoury purposes. My plan is to make it on the sweet side, and then when I want to use it say, for roast pork, I’ll sauté some onions and add in the apple mint preserve with a bit of cider vinegar to get more of a chutney or Branston-pickly kind of condiment. (If anyone has any experience with a similar recipe, I’m all ears.) I shall post up the recipe once I’m happy with the result.

Power Season 5 2018 And perhaps I’ll make a batch of Millionaire Shortbread in celebration of the Outlander premiere on Sunday. Since Claire and Jamie will be in the New World, it seems only fitting that we encourage that spirit of entrepreneurship, don’t you think? (wink)

 

It’s all in the wrist

You know how sometimes life gets ahead of you? Good intentions trip you up and instead of checking items off your “to do” list you are mired in the weight of the list itself and spinning your wheels.  I love to try new things and to share my excitement at new discoveries, but I have been caught in a hamster wheel for a while with things I told myself were “more important”. I was making excuses instead of getting organized.

But now I’m back, and I’m so glad I have this safe space to come back to. I still haven’t completed that list, but I did bake brownies today. And I feel so much better for it. It’s about following through, I discovered.

The recipe is one I saved over a year ago and never got around to trying. Red Wine Brownies (yes, really). Please don’t wait that long – they are really good. Sarah at Broma Bakery knows her stuff.

It seems so silly now that I’m here writing – I try to live not feeling guilty for indulging in life and yet that’s what stopped me from taking time to write or try new recipes. I felt guilty because I didn’t have everything done I thought I should do. Foodie heal thyself, right?

Okay, so I’m human. Today I took Ella for a walk and we decided we should stop by the local fruit market for ice cream. It turned out to be a rather nice fall day, and they will be closing soon for winter, so it was a “carpe diem” kind of inspiration. You know,

Eat ice cream, breathe the fresh air, shuffle in the leaves; for soon it will all be cold and white.

Root beer float and Tiger Tiger, on a waffle cone of course. I only ever eat Tiger ice cream in a cone. I have to say, the combination with root beer may be a new classic I want to lay claim to. It was like a key to a time warp that made me feel ten years old again. Living in the moment. Ella seemed to approve too, although her tastes are not very discriminatory when it comes to ice cream cone bottoms.

I felt a wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment seizing that beautiful moment. After all, I had spent the morning inside doing housework. I deserved a break. (And even if I hadn’t done housework, why not say “Yay me!” for making a memory?”)

The brownies didn’t get made until after dinner, since other tasks were prioritized. But they only took about 10 minutes to whip up, and then just 35 minutes in the oven. They were lukewarm when I cut into them to serve.

Hubbie was very happy I made brownies, and even happier when they showed up in a bowl with ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce and crushed toasted pecans. I was happy when I tucked my spoon in for the first bite and realized how gorgeously gooey and rich (not sweet) they were. Thank you, Sarah!

Broma Bakery red wine brownies

The thought did cross my mind as my spoon headed to my lips: “this is the second time I’m eating ice cream in a single day – and I only bothered to stretch today, didn’t even really work out!” I swallowed that thought with the bite of brownies – it was delicious.

So, there you are. I’m human. Not at all perfect. Completely fallible. But I can bake a good brownie with a little direction. And now that I have my momentum back, I may even come up with a variation on something or a new idea. Just watch me! Like my Dad used to say when I was trying to improve my clutzy basketball skills, “It’s all in the wrist.” One just has to follow through.

 

More Shades of Grey than I can count

I couldn’t help it, the urge was too great. The range of emotions I have felt over the last few weeks has been a roller coaster ride of epic proportions, encompassing passion, melancholy, lust and even anger. I had to share my experience.

I am speaking of course about the wonder of our autumn season this year, the ever-changing colours of the foliage spanning more than two glorious months with each day showcased under a new variation of grey. I feel as though I have been watIMG_4058ching a symphony being composed.IMG_3752

016e3521d3983acedf1539c2b208982ac2560217ddIMG_2369In honour of the allusion I put in my title, I wanted to suggest a tribute to this spectacular season. So, I am offering 50 ways we can appreciate the wonder of autumn, and the passing of life in general. I’ve started my list in my Happy Gourmand Castanet column and I listed more suggestions on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page. I include ten below, and I’ll wrap up with my last 10 on Remembrance Day on Facebook.

1. Take a walk in the morning and start your day with a dose of appreciation for the fresh air and all of Mother Nature’s fine work, including the shade of grey.

2. Spend a quality moment with your kids (if you don’t have kids or can’t borrow some, a pet will do just fine.) Enjoy their company, listen to what they have to say. They might surprise you with their honest view on things. It might show you a new shade 🙂

3. Perform a random act of kindness and watch the grey lift away.

4. Bake some cookies and taste a little sweetness to lighten a particularly dark day. Might I suggest my Tropical Delight cookies?

5. Listen to music and tap your toes to something that will make you see all the colours of the rainbow.   

6. Take a yoga class. Stretch, relax, and maybe make a new friend.

7. Invite friends over for dinner. Even if it’s a potluck, the shared company will brighten the greyness.

8. Go see a movie with a friend. Share your popcorn, laugh afterwards about the funny parts, or share a meaningful look if it was sad. The grey will be forgotten for at least a moment.

9. Send a card to a faraway friend and tell them how much you miss them. You will brighten your day and theirs!

10. Simply take a moment and breathe deep. Feel grateful. That’s all.

foggy winter morning Rabbit Hollow

Tastes and Colours of the season

orchard fall light

We’re in the heart of autumn. The days are shorter, the skies are greyer, but there is still a light from within the trees as they change colour. I wonder if the idea of undercarriage lighting came from brilliant yellow leaves on the grass in fall? The temperatures are cooler too, and so the flavours of the season are crisper and as a result.

In the spring, I enjoy the first green flavours from the warming sun – peas, baby greens, and asparagus all taste like new life fresh from the garden. In the summer, the longer brighter days allow for rich, luscious flavours and sweet aromas – peaches, tomatoes, and corn are decadent in their intense juiciness and complex flavours. In the fall, the bounty begins to diminish and I savour the squash and pears and plums.

I am lucky enough to walk through a veggie garden and fruit orchard every morning. I am trying hard to gather the last of the freshness before winter arrives. We have been drying herbs, pickling beets and peppers, making chutney and jam, drying mushrooms, and freezing all kinds of goodies.fall pearsToday I ate one of the last Bartlett pears still hanging on a tree, and I made a Plum Torte with the very last of the plums we had. I was wistful as I stood in the orchard, the floral perfume of the pear filling my mouth and the crisp bite lingering on my lips and the low rays of sunshine lighting the leaves.

The winter flavour for me is quince. The fruit are still on the trees now, awaiting the first frost before they reach maturity and show off an elegant lemony tang along with an exotic perfume that belies its gnarled exterior and rock-hard raw interior. But until then, I’ll make the most of the last of the bounty. If you can scrounge some plums, you can join me!

Plum Torte

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