Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tapping Maple Trees

I live in a house surrounded by Manitoba Maples (also known as Box Elders). Although these trees don't give the same syrup as trees found in Quebec, the sap can still be made into a tasty syrup. So this spring I finally had the equipment and time to tap them. I had two taps (one of which broke... my own fault). Here is a picture of our pot hanging to catch the drips.

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The drips came at a steady pace. The temperature last night when we tapped was +8 celcius and it got down to -3 celcius at night. Today it looks like it's going to rain and there's a heavy wind, but it's +3 celcius. So I brought it in before the rain. This means we only collected from 6 p.m. to noon and still got a hefty amount:

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Thus ends our tree-tapping experiment for this year. This was simply to see what it was all about and whether it was possible. I am boiling down the sap as I type and have vowed to try again next year. One thing I will do differently is buy metal spigots instead of cheap plastic. Tap on!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Cheap and Healthy

It is entirely possible to make healthy smoothies in a regular blender. You don't need to buy a super-expensive high-powered one, unless you use tough ingredients or use it daily. In my husband's country, people regularly make "smoothies". Two of the most popular ones amongst the immigrants are as follows:

Banana Smoothie:
Fill blender with milk and add 1-2 bananas and 1/4 cup sugar. Blend 30 seconds.

Pineapple Smoothie:
Fill blender with water and add 1/2-inch chunks of freshly-cut pineapple and 1/4 cup sugar. Blend 30 seconds.

Naturally, both of these recipes can be tweaked easily. I'm guessing the Pineapple smoothie recipe uses water instead of milk due to the acidity of the fruit. It seems to me that mango would pair quite well with it. As for the banana smoothie, bananas love strawberries! And feel free to experiment with using honey instead of sugar - honey is very healthy.



Now here's a recipe I just tried out tonight. I can't remember which website I found it on, but I tweaked it because my blender is too wimpy for ice:

1 cup chilled water
1 drink-juice box of Orange Juice
1 banana
1 cup red seedless grapes

I tested the recipe out on my 3-year old who suggested I run it through a strainer because the grape peels added a bit too much texture for her liking. I tried it as well and think it could do with some yogurt, but that might be personal preference. Try it out and tell me what you think!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Another On the Way

I am expecting another child, due in September, so this website won't get as much love in the meantime. Not only that, but my little girl is now 3 years old and I plan to do lots of gardening with her this summer. Mostly what we plant will go towards making our own baby food (she loves to use the blender), such as pumpkins, carrots, potatoes, and turnips. I have a very active little girl, and living in Manitoba where summers are so short, we practically live outside once it gets warm. So, I will post what I can on here from now until the birth of my second child, but if you have any questions, please feel free to email me directly at tcochranedm@gmail.com - thanks and have a great spring, summer and fall!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

A Happy and Unhappy New Year

Well, 2014 has arrived. The wonderful New Years news is that I am pregnant. The not-so-good news is that my 2-year old daughter suffered a spiral fracture on her left leg. Having a super-active little one stuck in a cast for a month is not fun or easy, however it has helped me think of different activities to do with her. We've explored new crafts and even invited a nurse to our house for a mini-lesson on checkups (she got to use a stethoscope, but she was scared of the blood pressure cuff). I made several lessons that can be adapted for individual kids or small groups, which I will post under the "Homeschool" section sometime this week.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Seasonal Foods

The harvest is in and the snow has come down. Everything is under a blanket of white, so it's time to switch gears and hibernate. Now is the time of year for comfort foods. I believe in eating seasonal foods (for cost and also for the environment) so I'm eating lots of mandarin oranges (in-season, although they do travel a fair distance) and squash (in-season and local). Frankly I've never tried spaghetti squash or acorn squash, so I bought some from just down the road and plan on cooking them up into something delectable for the whole family to try. Living with picky eaters, I always cook a "sweet" recipe first, to see if they like the taste, then delve into earthier flavours once they're used to it.

What are your favourite winter foods and recipes?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Zucchini harvest

I have never planted zucchini... heck, I rarely even eat it! But my father's cousin has an acreage and literally, her whole plot of land is garden. Seriously. She showed me her zucchini plant, and gave me a couple, so I had an opportunity to test out recipes that otherwise I would've ignored.



I hope you like my mother's delicious chocolate zucchini cake!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
1/2 c. butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. sour cream
1 chocolate fudge cake with pudding in mix (18.25g)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c. grated zucchini
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans
Mix ingredients with electric mixer. Grease and flour bundt pan or 10" tube pan. Bake at 325 for 40-50 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack 15 minutes, then invert on a serving plate to continue cooling. Frost when cool if you want.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Easy Apple Cider

A lady across the track has let me harvest some of her crabapples (roughly 19 lbs). A friend of my dad's let me harvest 12 lbs of eating apples. A family at church dropped off two grocery bags of crabapples. The man who rents me his garden let me harvest 16 lbs of eating apples. Needless to say, we had a lot of apples.

I've already got apple pies coming out our ears, and with a new school job (yay!) I don't have much time anymore for putting up the harvest. So what to do? Cider, of course! Here is the recipe which was given to me by the first aforementioned lady:

12 qts water
12 qts apples or crabapples, cut in half
Bring to boil for 5 minutes. Add 2/3 cup Cream of Tartar. Cover with lid and let sit 24 hours. Strain and can (process in boiling water canner 10 minutes) or put into airtight food-grade containers (I washed out my juice and milk jugs and used them).

If you're going to freeze it, leave plenty of headspace for the juice to expand. Also, this will produce unsweetened apple juice. If you like a sweeter drink, add 4 cups sugar per 30 cups juice (or I just add a tablespoon per glass).

(for those of you who are curious about the difference between apple juice and apple cider - apple juice is simply put through more levels of straining to remove sediment).