Monthly Archives: October 2012

In the kitchen: pumpkin butter, veggie stock, & our own personal food challenge


Chris and I are giving ourselves a challenge for the month of November: to spend no money on food. Instead, we are going to eat entirely from what’s already in our cupboards, freezer and fridge, and from what’s still growing in our gardens. 

Our primary motivation behind this personal challenge is to save money (aka to not spend what we don’t have). I think it’ll also be a good experiment in creativity and waste reduction (even though most of our food waste goes into the compost or to our chickens, this will hopefully help us – okay, mostly me – eat slightly older stuff before it goes bad before eating something new). 

So, to get myself in the mood (and, let’s be honest, to pass the time while watching the rain fall), I’ve already tried making two new food items this week from things we already had on hand: pumpkin maple spread (photo above) and homemade veggie soup stock (photo below). Both of these recipes produced things that will be able to be used in multiple meals and both will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks (and even longer in the freezer). 

I was inspired to make the pumpkin maple spread after seeing this recipe online. We have about a dozen pumpkins that didn’t quite finish ripening before the frost came so they’re now ripening (we hope) off the vine outside our back door. I thought this would be a good recipe to use up one of the pumpkins in, and, since we’re out of jam, figured this would be a good, free alternative to try. Verdict: it was super easy to make and is tasty. Our only complaint – the texture is like pumpkin pie filling texture. Not bad, but I’d like to try out another recipe that will hopefully turn out a little more butter-like in the texture department. 

As for the soup stock, I wanted to make roasted acorn squash soup the other night (another squash we have in decent abundance curing in our garage), but the recipe called for veggie stock. Since we didn’t have any, I looked up stock recipes and quickly became convinced that homemade stock as opposed to store-bought stock is DEFINITELY the way to go. It’s healthier, fresher and uses up fresh veggie scraps and other veggie odds and ends that are in need of use (it also avoids the tetrapack packaging waste that most store veggie stock comes in). I loosely followed this recipe, but tossed in whatever we had a lot of in the fridge – onions from the garden that needed to be used, old(er) carrots from the garden, old(er) kohlrabi from the garden, dried garlic and herbs from the garden that hang in current abundance in our kitchen, fresh celery that we have growing in a planter outside our back door, etc… I also tossed in some left-over tomato paste (from a grocery store can) we had in the fridge, and gave the whole thing a good seasoning of rock salt and pepper. The stock did the trick in the squash soup I made and we still have a big pot-full of it in the fridge which I’ve already pulled from for two other recipes. 

I’m excited about our November food challenge and thankful for all of the food we have from our own garden to pull from – fresh salad greens, radishes, and other roots veggies, as well as preserved tomatoes (frozen), garlic (dried), onions (dried), winter squash (curing), summer squash (frozen), beans (dried and frozen), and berries (frozen). I’m also thankful for the bulk amounts of grains we have (props to the Golden Ears Community Co-op buying club), as well as the various veggie and nut oils, and herbs and spices we already have in our cupboards. Let’s hope it’s enough to get us through the month (and let’s hope Chris can resist his urge to buy delicious chocolate bars every time he drives by Roots;). 


Loss and rest


The last three weeks have been full of change.

We have experienced loss. Too much loss for such a short period of time. We lost a beloved family member and we lost two of our pets: Dora, our sweet-natured rabbit, and Vincent, our amazing runner duck. It is not an exaggeration to describe this month as heart-breaking.

We’ve also experienced a seasonal change. The rain has returned and it’s unrelenting and cold.The days are shorter. The veggies have stopped growing. The slugs are returning. We’ve come to the realization that we aren’t prepared for successful winter gardening yet, so we’re going to spend the winter reflecting, building, and preparing for next year instead.

With the arrival of hibernation season, I’m ready to take refuge indoors. I’m ready to be silent and mourn, to nest and snuggle, to cook and bake, to heal and sleep. I’m thankful that this season arrived while we were saying our goodbyes and I’m ready for the quiet stillness of dark mornings and the soothing warmth of evening fireplaces that come with this time of year.

To those we have lost this month, we miss you and love you and wish that you were still with us.

A visit to Red Barn’s farm


Photo: Ken shows us how pepper picking is done.

About a week and a half ago, Chris and I were invited to join Ken from Red Barn Plants & Produce on his weekly drive up to their property in Cawston, BC. Uh…YES PLEASE!

Ken, Elke and Erik run Red Barn Plants & Produce and they grow REALLY GOOD FOOD. Chris and I started buying their produce at the Haney Farmers Market last summer and we love it. Their fruit and veggies are always delicious (especially their tomatoes!).

So, when Ken extended the invite to us one Saturday while we manned our own little produce booth, we jumped at the chance. Any opportunity to spend time with other farmers, hear their stories, learn from them and see their properties is really appealing to us newbies. We have so much to learn!

We’d actually been given a wonderful tour of Red Barn’s Maple Ridge property back in the early spring while discussing the potential for fresh food and plants to be sold through an in-the-works local Maple Ridge food coop. Their local property is incredibly inspiring and for Chris and I, represents similarities to the kind of gardening space and market business we aspire to have ourselves one day. 

Having seen how well they produce large quantities of quality food on a few acres in Maple Ridge, we were curious to see their larger property in Cawston, a part of BC that lends itself to warmer, drier summers which means different kinds of crops than the ones we grow on the coast. We hitched a ride with Ken in the Red Barn truck and talked farming stuff all the way up, immensely enjoying the ride and the colourful welcome of fruit stands as we arrived in Cawston. Once there, we met Erik who manages the property and got to work – harvesting food that would be making the trip back to the Lower Mainland the next day for the week’s market booths and farm gate sales. 

Peppers, tomatoes, beets, carrots, apples, melons… It was so fun to help harvest armloads of this stuff (such different quantities than our little garden produces!). We put in a good few hours of helping out, had a tour of the place, watched a neighbour start an accidental hillside fire, and partook in a delicious pasta dinner with sauce straight from the garden (Erik’s a great cook!). Then we talked more farm stuff as daylight disappeared and I fell asleep embarrassingly early. 

The next morning, we did some more harvesting before Ken and Erik sent us on a morning orchard walk while they packed up the truck. Then it was “goodbyes” and “thank yous” and off the three of us went with a truck full of fresh food, while Erik stayed behind to hold down the fort and start prepping for garlic planting. 

I’ve mentioned this before, but Chris and I are so, SO grateful to the farmers we’ve been getting to know through the market. We feel like we’re being taken under some very wise, knowledgeable and friendly farmer wings and it makes us feel supported and encouraged. It feels like a special thing – entering into this world of healthy soil protectors and food growers and we’re thankful for the welcome. 

To Ken, Elke and Erik – thanks for letting us tag along for a few days. It was great. You’re great! See ya at the market!

Erik harvests carrots… 

Chris shows off his bucket of hot peppers…


And I collect apples!