Cookbook of the Month (04/18)

It’s been a long while since I’ve shared a favourite cookbook. For awhile there, I was buying a lot of cookbooks, but my collecting has slowed down quite a bit in the last two or so years. Partly because of my one-year-no-book-buying challenge, and partly because my kids just aren’t always in love with my choice of cookbooks. They like simple flavours and comfort food (Noodles with Parmesan, rice with Parmesan, quinoa with Parmesan, that sort of thing) and I really like to try food with, well, more than parmesan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid cheese lover, but I like to vary my taste intake. I don’t hold it against my kids because I remember being one and being afraid of new flavours too. But I’m an adult now and I like pesto and cayenne and salsa verde and curry. Not all in one dish, but spread over a week or so.

In the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve added many vegetarian and vegan cookbooks to our collection, and while we’re still meat eaters, we’ve been eating less and less of it and having lots of meat-free options has been very exciting for the beekeeper and I. It can be tricky to find vegetarian options that aren’t covered in cheese and I’m the first to admit our go-to meat-free options are frequently covered in cheese. I know our kids will eat these foods and I know I’ll get a stink face when a food has beans (gasp!) or too much spice. I have found that the kids really like the flavours of fresh herbs and don’t notice when chickpeas or beans are smooshed into something (it’s not the flavour our oldest doesn’t like, but the texture. Texture offends her easily).

That’s why so I’m excited to try the Falafel Waffles from Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton. The chickpeas lose their chickpea form and are combined with parsley and garlic and cilantro (all things the kids like) and are mixed with coriander and cumin (and they love those flavours from tacos!) and pressed into a waffle shape. I’ve never had a savoury waffle, but I’m sure it will be delightful.

I’m also looking forward to trying Quinoa Corn Muffins for our oldest who tries to stay away from gluten-y things. Included in the book is a recipe for Zucchini Fries (always in need of another way to prepare zucchini in August!), a Spicy-Sweet Pumpkin Seed Snack and Spicy Fritos (a Parmesan recipe that doesn’t include a carb base!). The book is also filled with amazing soups and salads and I actually didn’t bother flagging the recipes I wanted to try, because it was most of them. These are my favourite kind of cookbooks!

And doesn’t this book just have a nice Spring-ish sort of cover?? Look at all that green!

As always, if you have a cookbook recommendation, I’d love to hear it!

Happy Cooking!

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What I’m Reading (03/18)

While I’ve been away from here, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I haven’t purchased any books (I put my self on a one year no-book-buying challenge on July 1st – nearing the finish line!) so I’ve been borrowing books from the local library. And I have received books from my family for special occasions – don’t think I wouldn’t work in a loophole to keep my collection growing. That would be crazy!

Every few weeks, I randomly type some garden related topic into my library’s search engine to see what pops up. That’s how I found The Garden Design Bible by Tim Newbury. As you can see, I don’t take a very scientific approach to discovering new things, but I’ve found some real gems using this very simple method. This book is no exception. If, like me, you love seeing those 2D garden designs in gardening magazines, then you’ll love this book. This book includes all sorts of 2D and 3D renderings of many different types of landscapes. Even if you’re exact landscape doesn’t fit in any of these boxes, you’ll be sure to find some inspiration in these pages. Everything from Scented Gardens to Balcony Gardens to Kitchen Gardens are covered in this book. It also includes some building projects, like a tiny pond, a trellis, modular decking and more. He even provides you with alternate planting plans. The one drawback is that he refers only to the scientific names of the plants, so if you don’t speak science, it might be handy to keep a Google browser open while you read the book.

When I saw Gardenista on a ‘Best Gardening Books’ list, I knew I wanted to borrow this one from the library. Then I loved it so much that I put it on my birthday list and lo and behold, it became a part of my collection (thank you blackwellbeekeeper). This book is brought to you by Michelle Slatalla of the renowned website Gardenista (amazing Instagram @gardenista_sourcebook feed as well). It’s just simply a gorgeous book filled with amazing photography and loads of aspirational gardens. If you’re someone who likes jaw-dropping beautiful gardens, this book is a great read. While it’s maybe a bit more of a coffee table book than a reference book, the appendix at the back lists her top 100 items, lots of design elements and a few pages of expert advice. While one may feel discouraged by their own lack of money while looking at the gardens of the wealthy, I actually just felt awed and inspired. I was able to see lots of ideas that I could borrow for my own much-smaller-budget garden. And I’ll be honest, if money weren’t an issue, I’d be spending it on my backyard (and my bookshelf).

One of the books I hope to get for Mother’s Day (hint, hint, hubby) is Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix. Do you get bored by just plain red and yellow tomatoes? Do you like to try new things in your own garden? Do you like to grow things that make your friends scratch their heads and say, ‘You can grow that here?’ If you answered yes to any of these questions, run, don’t walk to your favourite bookstore or library! The book is beautiful, filled with varieties that you’ve maybe never heard of and you’ll get a glimpse of Niki’s own home garden (it’s amazing!). For more inspiration, check out her Instagram feed (@nikijabbour) – she posts really beautiful pictures. She’s a fellow Canadian gardener which I always appreciate and there’s a good chance another of her books will be on my April book list.

Happy reading everyone! Never stop learning!

What I’m Reading (06/17)

I’m a book whore. That’s not really a nice word, but I’m not sure there’s another way to describe it. I feel like I’ve moved past “collector”. Collector might imply an enjoyment of  a certain genre or time period or style of writing, but what is it called when you like all the genres? (I don’t like ALL the genres – only about 90% of them!) What’s it called when you buy a lot of books, but then only hope to have time to read them? I’m an avid reader, for sure, but housework, volunteering and laundry always get in the way of my spending quality time with my books. 

I’m not a hoarder. Don’t laugh! It’s not hoarding if it’s books. I saw a meme on the internet, so it must be true. 

To be clear, book buying is not something I hope to seek help for any time soon. The mortgage is paid and my family gets food on a very regular basis. I’m just trying to be set the stage for the three books I’m reading this month. They were all purchased in May. A month when I actually read very little. Yes, I grew my collection of books, therefore growing my “to-read” list all while not ticking any off the list. It’s terrible, really. But I’ve convinced myself that just being surrounded by good books is enough sometimes. And when I do ever have time to read, I’ll have a large list to choose from. 

See, I’m a book whore. 

When I saw Welcome to the Farm at my local bookstore, I picked it up to purchase immediately. I did do the obligatory flip-through, but given the title alone, I was going to buy it. It might have been a joke book for all I knew and the joke would have been on me, but it appears to be a legit homesteading book. It’s totally the type of book I love. It’s part “how-to”, part recipe, and part story, combined with great pictures. 



Home Grown Pantry was another impulse buy, I’ll admit. One of the reasons it grabbed my attention was right on the front cover “Selecting the Best Varities & Planting the Perfect Amounts”. If someone is willing to take the guesswork out of a seed catalogue for me, I’m in! I thumbed through it and really enjoyed the layout and information presented. It discusses the main points of food preservation and how to choose the best varieties to grow. It covers veggies, herbs and fruit. 

You might be proud of me for the next choice. Cut Flower Garden was published way back in February and I didn’t buy it until May. That’s right, it was on my “wanted” list for nearly 3 months. While I’m not sure I’ll ever have a flower farm, I love the idea of this book. It’s organized by seasons, which is perfect for a flower book and the photography is stunning. I’m looking forward to diving right in. 

Our kids have three weeks left of school, so summer vacation is just around the corner for us. Even though summer is busy in the garden and around the homestead, I still find more time to read than during the school year. Anyone else out there have seasons of reading? 

What’s on your “to-read” list this month? 

What I’m Reading (05/17) 

Do people read in May? Apparently, I do not. I’ve completed one of my April books and finished a juvenile fiction book I started 4 months ago. Not exactly something to write home about! 

But, the garden is weeded, planting is about 80% done and the kids have eaten three meals a day all month. 

So, yeah. Hoping to read books in June. Stay tuned for that list because I’ve purchase a few new books that I’m excited about. 

Before weeding
After weeding

Happy Spring! 

Cookbook of the Month (04/17) 

Spring seems to be officially here, which usually kicks off a few months of us eating at odd hours and making very simple meals. We still follow recipes, but we don’t like anything that keeps us inside for too long.

Last month, I chose a cookbook that I wanted to read, and I thought maybe I’d be more creative this month, but no. No creativity this month in my cookbook choice. None, whatsoever. Last week, I asked Arianah to pick a couple of recipes to add to our weekly menu plan, and without fail, she went straight to our Chef Michael Smith section and chose from one of his cookbooks. So, that’s how I decided this month’s featured cookbook.

For April, I hope to try new recipes from Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen. We cook from his books quite often, and I can’t remember a time we’ve been disappointed – kids included. And pleasing them is a nearly impossible feat!

michaelsmith

Chef Michael Smith is another Canadian chef (that’s two in a row, if you’re counting. I’m feeling very patriotic, I guess.) and he’s written lots of cookbooks to date. I don’t have a list in front of me and I can’t really be bothered to find one. Sorry. You can check him out at your local bookstore or online.

Some of the recipes I hope to try include a Potato Bacon Cheddar Breakfast Bake, Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham Hock, Slow-Baked Salmon with Honey Mustard Glaze and Gruyere Mashed Potatoes. This particular cookbook of his doesn’t have a section dedicated to vegetarian recipes, but if you’re like me, you can find a way to make those Mashed Potatoes your entire meal. With a small salad maybe so you don’t judge yourself afterward.

I’ve already made his Oven-Roasted French Fries with Spicy Ketchup and if I didn’t have a husband and two kids, I would have eaten the whole tray. I’m actually drooling just thinking about those fries.

And now I’m hungry. Happy eating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m Reading (04/17) 

The ‘To-Do List’ is growing now that Spring is officially here, so two of the books I’ve added to my reading list are mostly made up of pictures. The third book is quite skinny. That should make it easier to get through three books this month, right?

Because I’m an honest person, I need to confess that I do not read gardening/homesteading books cover to cover unless they’re written in a novel-like format. I always read the intro and then I jump around to different chapters until I have a good grasp on the book’s info. So glad I got that off my conscience!

On that note, here’s the list:

Digging the City is a book that was on a recommended reading list from a class I took last year. It’s tagline is “An Urban Agriculture Manifesto”. It takes a look at some of the common ways people are growing food in urban areas. This is something of concern for me as a mother raising kids who will likely be living in a large urban centre rather than an idyllic country setting. I think it’s also an important topic since so our culture is so food-centric yet so disconnected from our food sources.   It’s fascinating to me to see the innovative ways people are making changes to our food production to keep it local and accessible to everyone.

Chad and I have big plans for our front yard and in the next few months, we’ll be starting the transformation. To prepare for the project, I’ll be reading 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants for Canadian Gardeners. This will be one of many books I read for this fun project. More details and I’m sure a blog post or two will follow.

Since we began growing food, my interest in herbal remedies has increased and I’m excited to have enough space to grow a large herb garden. I found out about Homegrown Herbs on a book list somewhere and it looked like a great resource. It discusses garden design & maintenance, pest control, cooking with herbs and using herbs for medicinal and personal care.

As usual, I plan on curling up with a cup of coffee and a blanket to read these books. Now that it’s warming up, maybe I’ll even read on the back deck. Oh bliss!

If you have any book suggestions for me, please share in the comments as I’m always looking for new books to read.

What I’m Reading (03/17)

It’s been well established by now that I enjoy reading, but even more than that, I like collecting books. I’ve been slowly building my library of homesteading books and now I’m trying to read through them all.

I bit off more than I could chew for February, so this month I’m going to read only 2 garden-y books. To check out our reviews of the books we are reading, hop on over to our Goodreads account. We’re slowly working through our ‘Read’ list on there and writing reviews.

I may have aimed a little high last month, but I’ll tell you a truth: I got The Garden Primer for my birthday and started reading it before I was done my other books. I know, shocking! I should have warned you to sit down before I laid down that truth bomb.

Naturally, I decided it should be added to my March list since I was so excited about it and already reading it anyway. Barbara Damrosch wrote this book and she’s a pretty well known author of all things garden, but I heard of her husband Elliot Coleman first (he also writes books!). The Garden Primer was a recommendation on some list on some blog somewhere and so I added it to my wishlist. That’s how I roll. I love book recommendation lists.

This is not likely a book that I’ll sit down and read cover to cover because I can already see it as being a book I’ll come back to again and again and again to learn things. That, and the last 400 pages are filled with information about individual types of flowers, herbs and vegetables – not something you just sit down with your coffee and read in one sitting.

gardenprimer

The other book on my list this month is Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph. This one caught my eye last year when we planted our fruit trees and I want to read it now so I can care for my trees properly as we move forward through the seasons. I really like the idea of growing small, manageable trees that produce the perfect amount of fruit for our family of four. This book has also been featured on a few recommendation lists.

littlefruittree

Alright. I’m going to go finish up the February list, read these March books and then figure out what I’m reading for April. If nothing else, writing a monthly reading list is helping me actually READ the books on my shelves instead of just staring at them. Apparently the information doesn’t seep in when you’re just looking at the spine of the book.

Oh, and I finished reading the Harry Potter series to my daughter. Just in case you were wondering.

Cookbook of the Month (03/17)

I think it’s been mentioned before that I have a book problem collection. In an effort to get to know all of our cookbooks better, Chad and I thought it would be fun to try new recipes from one cookbook a month. When I’m actively menu-planning and making a solid effort to cook healthy meals every day, I like to try one or two new recipes a week. I usually grab three or four books to pick from, but I think I would benefit more from focussing on just one book for a longer period of time.

And since it’s March now, it’s not like a New Year’s Resolution, so maybe it’s a habit that’ll stick around!

So, where do I start? Alphabetically? Put all the titles in a hat and pull one out? Line ’em up by colour and start with the lightest? Or darkest? Take a family vote? No, that’s a bad idea. My kids would just choose the Cookies book. Walk to my shelf blindfolded and go with whatever I grab first? Not a smart idea – I’m clumsy by nature.

Alrighty, so I just went in the dining room and grabbed the book that I’ve been wanting to read lately. Maybe next month I’ll come up with a more creative way to choose.

So, I’m gonna go with:

Oh She Glows.

oh-she-glows

Angela is a Canadian author and this is her first cookbook. She released a second book last year. She has a very popular blog of the same name, Oh She Glows.

This is a vegan cookbook and we, as a family are not even vegetarian, but we try to go meatless about 2-3 times a week. I would really like to increase that amount, but our oldest is putting up some resistance against the legume family. Ok, and we all like bacon. There, I admitted it.

I’ve already been using this cookbook for a couple of years and have made several recipes (her Chana Masala is my go-to recipe), but I have a lot of sticky notes posted all over this book and I would love to try all of the recipes I’ve flagged. Here are a couple that have been jumping out at me: Loaded Savory Oatmeal & Lentil Bowl, Apple Pie Oatmeal, Creamy Vegetable Curry and Our Favourite Veggie Burger. And now I’m hungry.

I’m curious though, how do other people handle trying new recipes with their families? Is there anyone else out there that likes to collect cookbooks like I do? And if yes, which ones do I need to add to my collection? Let me know in the comments section.

In the meantime, happy cooking!

 

I’m reading right now (Feb, 2017)

While reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows may be a great use of my time, it’s not exactly teaching me anything about homesteading. It is, however, making me wish I could do dishes with a wand instead of by hand.

Since I’m trying to balance out my love of children’s books with something educational, I always have something in the homesteading category on the go as well.

The first time I spotted Herbarium at the local bookstore, I put it on my wish list immediately. The book contains information about 100 herbs – how to grow, cook and heal with them. The information is simply put so it doesn’t melt my brain when I’m reading it. (Anyone else find it impossible to read with kids around?) My favourite part though, is the artwork. I might just leave this one laying out as a coffee table book. The bold prints are beautiful and fun to look at, as you can imagine from the front cover alone.

herbarium

 

Since we moved here, we’ve been looking for other local urban farmers so when I found out about Kula Permaculture, I was thrilled and then slightly disappointed when I realized they weren’t located around the corner, like I had hoped, but several hours away. On my first visit to their website, I discovered two things:

  1. They’re one of the largest permaculture farms in Canada. And…
  2. They were about to release a book!

(I think it’s already been noted that I have a book problem. But, Chad always says there are no problems, only opportunities, so I guess I have a book opportunity. An opportunity to learn! And become annoyed when my kids forget that some people don’t like constant interruptions while reading.)

Anyway, the book is called The Permaculture Market Garden. I’ve only read the introduction so far, but I’ve scanned the book and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna love it. It’s filled with watercolour pictures and drawings. I can’t wait to really sink my teeth into it. Or my eyes, whatever. I won’t actually bite it.

kula

 

Because of social media, I also recently discovered One Tenth Farm. I actually linked to their website in yesterday’s post because their book (also newly released) was featured in a picture I took the other day.

I haven’t read much of  The Suburban Micro-Farm yet either, but I was looking for some answers while garden planning and discovered some handy dandy charts in this book. This book isn’t as colourful as the other two I’ve mentioned, but it’s filled with great info. I think it would be a great addition to any library, but especially to a beginner gardener/homesteader, because the info is so thorough. I’m pretty sure it’s going to become a go-to book for me.

microfarm

 

Well, I’ll be reading Harry Potter from 7-7:30 tonight, but once my daughter is off to bed, I’ll be cozy under a blanket reading these grown-up books. With a glass of wine. Happy reading to all!

 

 

My “Go-To” Books for Garden Planning

It’s February. It’s been a weird, mild sort of winter, even for Southern Ontario and it’s making me itchy to get outside. The sun is getting higher in the sky, the days are getting longer and I keep looking out the window at the breenish (brown-greenish) lawn and the remnants of plants in the gardens, dreaming of the upcoming season.

This is will be our third summer here. This will be the third year that I’m almost as excited about planting season as I am about Christmas. That’s a lot, in case you were wondering. Every year, I find new books to read on all topics gardening, permaculture, chickens and homesteading so my collection is growing nicely. Notice I didn’t say it’s getting out of hand.

When it’s time to bring out the graph paper and coloured pens to plan my garden (yes, I’m kinda old-school), there are a few books I always have on hand. I’ll tell you what they are, but you’ll notice no affiliate links. I don’t know how those work, and really, I’d love for you to find a local bookstore and support them instead. There may be better books out there, and by all means, share those titles with me. There’s a reason I said my collection of books is growing – I’d love some new suggestions.

  • Gardening Manual for Canada by DK Publishing

gardeningmanualforcanada

I had this book long before we even owned our first house. In fact, this edition is now out of print. I pored over this book for years and years, dreaming of future gardens and it’s likely partially to blame for my un-ending scheming in the garden. While it doesn’t delve into vegetable gardening or homesteading, it gives a great overview of gardening in general and has been my go-to for flower information.

  • The Backyard Homestead by Storey Publishing

backyardhomestead

This book jumped onto my wishlist the very first time I spotted it. It was the second homesteading book I ever picked up and I loved it right away. I could likely write an essay on all it’s virtues, but really, it’s simply great because it touches on everything. I wouldn’t call it “the-only-homesteading-book-you’ll-ever-need” because there are things like chickens that need entire books written about them, but it’s great to add to a growing collection. This book is filled with handy charts and drawings and tips and ideas and really, you should run out and buy it today.

  • Little House in the Suburbs by Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin

littlehouseinthesuburbs

This is the book that made me believe we could do this too. We were living right in the middle of town when I first read this book, but it got the wheels turning and it was after we read this book that we ripped out half the flowers and built raised beds in the only sunny spot on our property. Like the previously mentioned book, it touches on many topics, so is not the expert on one subject. My absolute favourite part of this book is the Companion Planning Chart that’s filled with smiley faces to let the reader know which families of plants get along. I’m amused by simple things and this brings me joy every time I read this book. The authors write a blog by the same name (www.littlehouseinthesuburbs.com), so you can visit them there for more information.

  • All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

squarefootgardening

His book is particularly popular for small space gardeners and even though I have a large garden, I really like this book. He covers everything from building projects to pests to soil building to water. The last section of the book is filled with pages of info on planting and harvesting the most popular veggies, herbs and flowers, as well as handy charts on continuous planting and indoor seed starting. It’s my go-to guide for plant spacing  to maximize every inch of our garden.

  • The New Vegetable Growers Handbook by Frank Tozer

vegetablegrowershandbook

This book has no pictures. Except for the ones on the cover. This would usually deter me from buying it, but it was the required text for an online course I took. There are some simple drawings inside though, to break up all the writing. Really, I’m not doing this book justice. Ignore the lack of pictures and embrace this book. This is the book I pick up most often. Why? Because it is loaded with information about every vegetable and some herbs. This book discusses growing from seed or buying plants, when and what to start indoors, when to plant outdoors, and what to direct seed. It includes pest and disease information, preferred soil pH levels, watering preferences, ease of growing, harvesting and storage info and recipes. It even includes a brief history of each plant. So, even if it’s not the prettiest book you’ve ever read, it’s invaluable to your garden.

Well, there you have it. These are the books I use for planning, for now. As I’ve mentioned, the collection is always growing. We’ve recently added several books to the “homesteading” shelf and I’m hoping to read them in the coming weeks. It’s possible that one of them will bump one of the five above, but more likely, I’ll just keep adding to the stack of books I need to plan the garden. In a few years, I may be so surrounded by books, the only way you’ll know I’m at the table is by the sound of my pen scratching on the graph paper.