Preserving Adventures Pt 1 – Pickles and Tomato Sauce

I’m finally getting around to sharing my canning adventures! My past two weekends have been spent in the kitchen prepping, cooking, and attempting to make some preservatives for the winter. I ordered 10lbs of pickling cucumbers, dill, garlic, and 40lbs of canning tomatoes from my local organic box. The first weekend I did up my pickles. It was really pretty easy! I followed some online instructions and it literally only took about 30 mins for all my pickles (five 1L jars). I found a ton of different ways to make dill pickles from fermenting them first to super easy fridge pickles but I settled on a canning recipe. Maybe I’ll try a different method next year, depending on how these turn out.. The recipe/instructions I followed is here. Making pickles is definitely something I want to do every year, hopefully with my own home-grown cucumbers next year! I can’t wait to taste them. Seeing them sitting on the counter everyday yet having to wait a whole month to eat them is probably the worst part of doing it at home.

Image

All my cukes. Washed and ready!

Image

The jars looked so pretty with just the dill and garlic in them.

Image

Finished pickles! Waiting to be eaten..

Next up was homemade tomato sauce. My friend is Italian and every year at the end of the summer her mom, and pretty much entire neighborhood, spend days upon days making enough tomato sauce to last for the entire year. We got the recipe from her mom and set to work. This was much more labour intensive than the pickles.. We set up stations in her kitchen for each step. The first station was for rinsing the tomatoes and prepping them for blanching then the blanching station (a pot of boiling water and a pot of ice water). Next was the peeling station where the skins were removed from all the tomatoes. After that came the blending station and finally the cooking station. It took us 5 hours the first night to finish cooking most of the tomato sauce and get about half of the sauce into jars and those jars processed. After about a half day total of work we finished with 12 500ml jars each. Not too bad for our first time! I tested out an unsealed jar that night on spaghetti and it was delicious. I can’t wait to try it out for pizza too!

Image

Finished tomato sauce. We also added fresh basil leaves to each jar. Yum.

Next on my list for home made food is salsa and vegan cheese. So far I’ve got some sprouted grains fermenting as a starter liquid for my cheese. Hopefully that will be ready to use either today or tomorrow. It’s such a satisfying feeling making everything from scratch. A lot of work but so worth it!

Advertisements

We survived! Details of our first 3 day hike!

Image

So happy we made it to the top!

We survived our first of hopefully many more long distance hiking trips! I had an unreal time. It was hard, especially the very steep parts, but so worth it. The first day was mostly uphill through forested trails but towards the end of the day the trail opened up into a huge meadow full of marmots. One which we didn’t notice until we were almost on top of it just sat there eating tubers less than 5 ft away not scared of us at all. Our first campsite was in a treed in area in the middle of the meadow. The campsites were really cool, winding trails led through tent pads from the picnic table/food area to the food storage area and also an outdoor toilet with one heck of a view.

Image

Day 1

Image

Mr. Marmot

The second day we started off through another meadow going up even further into the mountains. Then we hiked across the side of a sandy/rocky range and up to a glacial lake which was the most beautiful shades of green/blue and incredibly clear. I wanted to dive in so badly! After that was an intense climb up over the mountain top behind the lake. It was like being on a Stairmaster for an hour straight after already hiking uphill for 3 hours that day. We took a lot of breaks.. The view from the top was just amazing and it only got better as the day went on. We stopped to take a short video at the highest point of our hike. It was super windy at the top. At one point we could lean almost all the way into the wind and have it keep you standing upright.

Image

Image

A cool boulder patch we went through.

Image

Amazing view..

Then the trail continued across the mountain range and finally, near the end of the day, headed down to the campsites back below the tree line. We set up our tents and went to have some dinner with a Belgian couple we had met the day before. The final day was mostly a downhill trek back down the mountain and to the parking lot where our car was waiting having taken the shuttle up to the start of the hike. We lucked out with weather and had beautiful sunny days the entire trip. I honestly could not have asked for a better first 3 day hiking trip. I can’t wait to do it again. I figured I would include a list of the food we brought with us. I was considering trying to do the hike solely on plant based foods but I caved and brought some cheese.

Food for both of us for 3 days:

  • 2 wholegrain bagels and 2 wholegrain and berry bagels
  • sliced sharp cheddar cheese
  • cherry tomatoes
  • trail mix
  • freeze-dried primavera pasta
  • wild grain rice with a can of vegetable soup (transferred to a Ziploc baggie) and croutons
  • Oatmeal mixed with brown sugar and dried cranberries
  • Blueberry granola with powdered milk (Shadoe’s breakfast)
  • 2 dark chocolate bars and an eatmore bar

We could have done with a little bit more food. The primavera pasta we thought would have been enough for us both but turns out it was a single serving. Otherwise, a very good menu for our first trip and most importantly 100% vegetarian! Next time with a little more planning I think I could make it entirely plant based by subbing in some homemade vegan cheese. I just ordered “Artisan Vegan Cheese” by Miyoko Schinner off amazon and I’m very excited for it to arrive! I also ordered 5lbs of pickling cucumbers and 40lbs of canning tomatoes plus dill and basil from our organic food box so adventures in preserving should be starting right away. I’ll keep you updated =D.

Adventure time! Planning my first 3 day hike!

It’s been my goal for the summer to complete a multi-day hike and since the summer is almost over I figured I had better get my butt in gear and just do it. I’ve gone on an overnight hike once before and it was awesome, definitely something I’d like to do more often. We made our own trail up a mountain in the Yukon then camped out just below the summit. It’s such an amazing feeling to work so hard and then reach the top and be able to just relax and take it all in.

After reading “Wild” By Cheryl Strayed at the beginning of the summer I became hooked on the idea of doing a long distance hike but I figured I had better test out the waters by doing a 2-3 day hike first. Luckily we live pretty close to some amazing hiking territory. After looking up a few hikes and getting some recommendations we decided on the Skyline Trail in Jasper, AB. It’s a 44Km hike of which 25 kilometers are above the tree line. I’m a little nervous having only done much shorter distances in the past but I’m always up for an adventure! I’ve been reading nonstop on what to pack, how to pack and how to reduce weight in your bag. We have almost everything we need already but I’ve been debating splurging on a new lightweight sleeping bag. I’m almost always cold when we go camping so lately I’ve been using a super thick sleeping bag but it’s not something I want to drag up a mountain. Especially when I just found a warmer, more compact bag that weighs at least half the weight and would take up half the space.. Problem is I already have to purchase a sleeping pad a a few other things and I want to invest in quality gear. This is definitely where kijiji comes in handy. So far I’ve found a sleeping pad for $40 instead of $70 at the store and sleeping bags for much less than in store. Unfortunately all the sleeping bags for sale are larger than what I’m looking for so that might be one thing I need to buy new. I wish I had planned a little more in advance and spent more time looking online for used ones. There has got to be lots of second hand bags in great condition as it seems everyone just buys new everything nowadays. Just where/how to find them… Worst case scenario I just end up hauling my huge sleeping bag around for a couple days, better than being cold!  

Now to reserve our spots on the trail and spend the next week gathering supplies. Oh and try to and get as many runs in as possible. I’ve kind of been slacking in the running department since getting sick last month and a little worried my legs won’t be up to all the uphill climbing. Yet excitement is definitely overcoming the nervousness as I hope this is the start to many more hiking adventures for Shadoe and I.

10 days and counting! 

Image

Hiking in the Yukon!

Day 2 and 3 of a high raw challenge

Okay so maybe I shouldn’t have started a challenge that require a ton of prep work in the middle of such a hectic week.. It was a strange work week for me as I had to switch from night shift to day shift in one day instead of my regular two days off.. That meant very little sleep for me both nights. I also had the Queen’s of the Stone Age concert Wednesday night. It was a lot of fun but I was a little too tired to fully enjoy it. I was also pretty hungry.

Honestly, I was just way too lazy to do this challenge this week. I only drank one of the two smoothies per day and did not eat as many veggies/salad as it called for which left me just hungry a lot but still not wanting to quit. I did well all Day 2 but cheated wed night after the concert. I got home and was starving, exhausted and not in the mood to make anything so I just chopped up a couple tomatoes and ate them with some cheese (I wish I had of had some vegan cheese on hand instead!).

Day 3 started good as well. I had a smoothie for breakfast and then lettuce wraps for lunch. They were actually delicious and I’d definitely make them again soon. After work I was exhausted and just not in the mood for salad for supper at all and I called it quits and made my masala pasta but I made sure to fill my bowl with mostly veggies. I honestly didn’t feel any different after doing the cleanse. Probably because I didn’t follow it correctly… Yet there were still some benefits. The green smoothies were awesome energy boosters. I always feel that way about smoothies and drink them quite frequently already but it was cool to add some new recipes to my repertoire. I also discovered other recipes like sweet potato hummus and the lettuce wraps which were tasty but overall I quite enjoy my cooked food and it’s usually pretty healthy. I think I could do raw for breakfast and lunch quite easily but supper just calls for cooked food in my opinion with salad as a side not a main dish. I’m so glad Young and Raw offers these free challenges. Check out their website, there’s all kinds of cool info and recipes for raw soups, sauces, etc. It was so cool to have a shopping list, recipes and meals planned for the 3 days. A great way to dip your toes into the raw food waters.

Side note: If it seems like a lot of my posts are about food it’s because I’m constantly trying to find ways to reduce my environmental impact. I have a lot less time now that I work full time and I find what I eat, where I get it from, and how I prepare it is one of the easiest things for me to be constantly working on. Plus I love food, discovering new recipes and sharing my excitement over them is fun for me!  

Other than that my weekend has been good so far! I’m dog sitting for a girl at work. A beautiful Husky/German Sheppard mix who is a sweetheart. We got to go floating down the river today in gorgeous sunny weather and then I took the dog on a nice bike ride afterwards. Now to clean the house and then relax for the rest of the weekend 🙂    

Have you ever tried a raw food challenge? Was it successful?  

Annnnd some instagram photos from this week: 

Image

Strawberries in my garden 🙂 Yay!

Image

Self-explanatory pic lol

Day 1 of a high raw challenge!

I love challenges, even if I don’t always complete them or stick with them 100%… I love the anticipation, the planning, and the feeling of trying something new. To me an attempted change is better than no change and usually leads to me picking up a few good habits in the long run. Last week, after talking with a friend at work about cleanses I decided I wanted to give one a try as well. The last cleanse I did was the master cleanse back in university to prepare for a trip to Cuba. I actually did enjoy that cleanse and looked and felt much better once the week was over! Admittedly I didn’t do it for the best reasons back then. More about looking good in a bikini then feeling healthy. Young and Raw, a Facebook page I follow, had just posted a 3 day high raw challenge that sounded right up my alley!

This Monday was a holiday (Heritage day) and to celebrate we have a weekend long festival with food, dancing, and displays from many different countries/cultures around the world. Since I knew I would be trying lots of new foods, a lot of them not so healthy I figured a Monday start would be perfect. Unfortunately last week I started feeling very drained at work. A few people had been sick lately and while I usually don’t catch whatever is going around this time I did. By Friday I was completely exhausted and left work early. I still wanted to go to Heritage days so I loaded up on drugs (even though I usually try to stay away from them) and we even stopped at the farmer’s market beforehand and bought a ton of fresh berries. I had a really fun time! It’s honestly amazing what drugs can mask. By the time I got home the drugs were starting to wear off and I crashed. I crawled into bed the minute I got home and didn’t move from either the couch or the bed for the next day and a half. My boyfriend was the perfect caretaker always making sure I had Neocitron, orange juice, soup or hugs to make me feel better. Even though my Monday start got derailed I was feeling well enough by Monday evening after all that rest that a Tuesday start could work!  

Somehow I managed to have almost everything needed for the raw challenge already stocked in my fridge. With the exception of some fruit I need to go pick up today. Once I discovered that there was no turning back. I spent the morning preparing some of the meals for the next 3 days. I didn’t manage to eat everything on the schedule for Day 1 (it’s a lot of veggies!) but I did pretty good. I had to work at night and felt a little tired and lightheaded for part of the night but I definitely had more energy than last week. The only time I cheated from the challenge was at 2am last night. Getting home from work my belly was growling for food but I was not in the mood to make a salad. Instead I grabbed a handful of unsalted cashews and went to bed. I find evenings the worst for snacking (as I’m sure most people do) I’ll eat healthy all day long but then be craving crackers and cheese or other salty foods as soon as it’s dark out. So I was pretty proud of sticking to a plant based snack!

Today I’m going to go grab the rest of the fruit needed for the challenge and then we’re going to the Queens Of The Stone Age concert tonight!! Yayyy! I am very excited! I only wish I didn’t have to work tomorrow morning.. Hopefully all this healthy eating will give me energy to get through the day! So far no detox symptoms to report unless the light-headedness was a symptom but I chalk that up to being sick for the weekend. I don’t really think I’ll have any detox symptoms as I normally don’t eat processed foods or high/fat high sugar garbage.     

And It wouldn’t be an eco-couple post without an update or photo with chickens! 

Image

I tried to fend of the sickness last week with a cold-busting smoothie and yoga in the sun! I love natural remedies 🙂

Image

Picked some berries for the chickens. They’ve been such good layers lately they deserved a treat!

Update – Nova Scotia trip and life in general.

I’m the worst blogger ever.. lol in all honesty I kind of forgot about my blog for a while there. Since my last post a lot has happened! First we took a trip to Nova Scotia for the wedding of an old and dear friend. We had a fantastic time! I got to see my family, old friends and a little bit of the cabot trail. Mostly we stayed at my cottage and built a new deck for my grandparents. I love our cottage there. It’s in a quiet area, a minute away from the beach which is also never crowded. It was so relaxing to just hang out the two of us and get away for a little bit. We went canoeing on the ocean, did a crazy hike in Cape Breton and jumped into the ocean in our clothes. The only thing that would have made it better would be if we could have stayed longer.

After we got back it was back to work where some departmental changes led to a promotion for me! Yay! Definitely feels good to be climbing the ladder at a company you enjoy and feel proud working for. Other than that just been doing lots of cooking and trying to fit in a run at least once or twice a week (my time has improved a lot since the spring!). I’m so looking forward to having a 8-5 schedule with this new job and being able to plan weeknight activities.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been trying out a lot of Happy Herbivore recipes and even purchased 2 weeks worth of meal plans. I have seriously been loving everything! Even recipes that have ingredients I normally don’t like or just seem like something I would never eat turn out delicious. Case in point: Fruit gazpacho.  The entire time I was making it I was thinking “this is a waste of fruit, no way I’m going to eat this.. tomatoes and cucumbers with fruit and mint.. gross” and then I couldn’t get enough of it! Same thing goes for all the HH Abroad recipes, everything is delicious and so easy. I don’t even notice the missing oil/fat. I really want to try actually sticking to a meal plan for a week and see how it goes as so far I’ve just been making the recipes. Anyways I just wanted to do a quick update and get back into blogging, it’s been too long!

Image

Hiking on the Cabot Trail

Image

So so beautiful!

Image

Image

The deck we built!

Vegetarians host a turkey dinner?

Wow, it’s really been a long time since I updated my blog.. Where has the time went? Sadly I haven’t really completed all the goals I set for myself this spring. I still have yet to plant my garden. The weather has just not been co-operating.. Whenever I have a day off it decides to rain on and off all day, even today, although the sun finally decided to make a brief appearance (I can tell by the grey clouds ready to move back in) the ground is sopping wet. Yesterday would have been a good day for gardening but we planned a turkey dinner for our friends that evening so I spent most of the day in the kitchen or cleaning. Turkey? Turkey dinner in June? Truth is I got a free turkey from work for Christmas and it has been sitting in the freezer ever since. I meant to take it to the food bank back around the holidays but I never got around to it. So it sat, for months and months with me debating back and forth whether to get rid of it, against my boyfriend’s protests, or to cook it. Finally after more persuading from Shadoe and with his brother’s arrival last week I decided it would be better to finally do something with the bird rather than let it go bad in the freezer while I made up my mind about just how terrible it would be to eat it.

So we planned a big dinner and invited over some friends. With one more mouth in the house to eat the leftovers and lots of people to share in the feast I didn’t feel quite so bad about consuming the factory-raised animal. My friends were very confused about the menu for the night. One of them had even brought goat cheese separate from the salad he made as he wasn’t sure if I was eating dairy or not. I had to laugh and tell everyone it was a free for all night, I was eating turkey, cheese, everything! Of course I got the usual comments about not being a very good vegetarian, but I tried very hard to brush it off. As I mentioned in an earlier post about labels, I prefer the vegetarian label for it’s ease of use social settings and since I do eat vegetarian 99% of the time but I hate that feeling of inadequacy that comes along with giving yourself a label and not living up to it perfectly.

After a very successful dinner with friends and family (my mom decided to visit last minute) I felt satisfied with my decision. That is, until 5 am and I woke up sick to my stomach. I first I was freaking out, oh no I’ve given everyone food poisoning.. Then I remembered that the exact same thing happened last time we had a turkey dinner and I vowed not to touch the leftovers, for fear of getting sick again, just like last time. I have no idea what is wrong but my belly just does not like turkey dinner. It could also be I over-did it with the gravy and my stomach is just not used to that much animal fat. Either way makes it that much easier to avoid turkey at special occasions even if it is delicious. So after a big feast of meat, cheese, and cream sauce I’m happy to be back to my Happy Herbivore meal plan I’ve been following this week. I have to say I was pretty excited to drink my chocolate green smoothie this morning! I’ll do a post on how the meal plan is going later this week but so far so good!  

Image

Chocolate breakfast smoothie with spinach. Yum!