Thursday, June 17, 2010

Calgary Blogger Bake Sale

How fantastic is this picture. Real safe, right? I wish I could say it was me.. it's from the website of the camp I spent summers at as a kid, dated 1985. Odds are I was there that year, covered in bug bites and high on candy bars. I loved the air rifle range...

I just dropped off my contribution to a Calgary blogger bake sale this evening, set up to raise funds for Meals on Wheels. I went with S'mores Bars, because I've been reminiscing about summer camp lately. I hope I'll get the chance to volunteer at a summer camp at some point in the future, it was such a great experience as a kid. For a good decade, I spent a week or two every summer at a church camp near Calgary, and it was good times. Running around playing tag, chasing boys, food fights, staying up late, singing around a campfire and, in a time before helicopter parents and lawsuits, shooting an air rifle. What more does a ten year old need really.

The bake sale is on at the Market Collective this weekend, Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 11-5 at the old Ant Hill Fabrics building in Kensington. Vincci organized it, what a great way to inspire us all. There will be some amazing treats by very talented local foodies, some much more gourmet than marshmallows and chocolate. But then, those are good too sometimes.

Some of the participants include:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Beet the System

Check out this sweet logo. I got a t-shirt from Black Sheep Heap on Etsy. I am also tempted by Yes We Can. How awesome is that?

In other news, E and I joined the Bowness Railway Community Garden. We are looking forward to meeting other like-minded green thumbs. I was quite entertained to hear from the coordinator that the problem at community gardens in Bowness is not teenagers vandalizing, but senior citizens helping themselves to vegetables.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gardening on a budget

My SO and I have taken on the (little did we know) epic task of converting a former RV pad covered in sod into a productive garden. We are also aiming to do so on a budget. This has meant tilling the soil the old fashioned way.. pulling out stones one at a time. We discovered, much to our dismay, a huge amount of pea gravel underneath the sod. Here is the garden in process, SIX WEEKS after we (and by 'we' I mean mostly E, with me pitching in for a few hours at a time..) began. We have removed over 20 wheelbarrows full of gravel, no joke. Filled every pothole in the alley, with some to spare.

We could have done raised beds and avoided all this, however that's where the budget factor comes in. That much wood and trucked in loam is expensive. It probably would have cost us $600.00 or more. We have brought in some loam ourselves, which reduced costs significantly. Locally, a delivered square yard of loam is $125, but if you go pick it up yourself at Burnco it's $20.

We did build two planter boxes. In that case we spent the big bucks on cedar, because it is the longest lasting untreated wood (treated wood is out of course, no one wants arsenic salad..). I did want to treat it with something, but found that the natural deck oil available in town is $50 a can. So instead I followed a suggestion I saw at Mother Earth News, and bought some linseed oil and turpentine. Linseed is flax oil, and turpentine is derived from pine trees. A 50/50 mix is a great wood treatment and costs $35 a can.

After a ton of work, we have one third of the garden space ready for planting. We amended the soil with two garbage cans of organic matter and compost, and some composted manure. Hopefully we will only need manure for the first two years as we build up the soil. We will also need to add some phosphate rock and blood meal (that just sounds gross, doesn't it?) as we discovered through testing that the soil is depleted in phosphorous and nitrogen.

Finally, it's time to plant! Next on the to do list, constructing some mini greenhouses to use as the plants get going.

Friday, June 4, 2010


It's all about comfort foods this week. Noodles and curry coconut sauce in this case.. I started with one of Bittman's braised tempeh recipes. Have you ever tried tempeh? I have come around to really liking it, although I was laughing with friends recently that I can't even tell what a normal person would consider good anymore, because my taste for food is so varied these days. I do drink fermented beet juice, after all (yes, yes, it sounds horrific.. but you don't even know how good it is). I think tempeh falls in to the same category for many people.

I remember years ago buying tofu and putting it in stir fries, and then eating around it because the truth was, I didn't like it. But now that I have learned the tricks to cooking it up properly, it is a fantastic satisfying meal.

I had the same experience with tempeh. Tempeh is an Indonesian invention, traditionally made of whole soy beans formed into a cake and fermented. It is very high in B vitamins. Like all fermented bean foods, it has a full, earthy flavor, and can be a bit much for some palates. When I first tried it out I would use entire blocks of the stuff, grilled or whatever, and I just didn't like it. Bittman is a genius with these kinds of things though. In his discussion of tempeh, he explains that because it is so strong, it does well paired with really rich or sweet and sour tastes. Also, he suggests crumbling it into dishes instead of trying to eat a huge piece of the stuff. In this recipe, you crumble it into an oiled pan and fry it with garlic, ginger, and curry powder and then add even parts veggie stock and coconut milk and let the sauce boil down for 15 minutes or so. The original recipe calls for some chopped cabbage added near the end, but I had some kale on hand and it worked nicely.

Fortunately kale, like other substantial and slightly bitter greens, also mellow out beautifully with the addition of something rich (coconut milk) or sweet and sour (for example, try kale sauteed with some apple cider vinegar and maple syrup).

I served the dish with rice noodles. With help from Bittman, the tempeh was fantastic.