Sunday, August 29, 2010

two intense tomato soups for one mildly compulsive cook and eater



I think I am surely a bit obsessive, because I find myself thinking a lot about tomato soup. During and after the Great Tomato Soup Taste-off, I felt sure that the best soup had to be concocted in my own kitchen. Quite fortuitously, I came across two recipes for tomato soup, so I had my own little tomato soup cook-off on Friday evening. The results were excellent.

The first recipe is my friend Helmi's. I visited with Helmi and her husband Fred on Wednesday. They live in Whonnock, about an hour's drive out into the country from where I live. Helmi and Fred have lived in amazing cities in Europe and South America, and in Vancouver. Now they live in a rural area out past the suburbs, in a lovely home filled with books, music and art, nestled on a several-acre lot populated by various wildlife and a loveable dog named Chica. We sat in the garden at a table with a gorgeous batik cloth, and enjoyed a lunch which included a sweet potato and tomato soup prepared from a recipe in The Book of Latin American Cooking, by Elisabeth Lambert Otiz (Knopf 1979). Helmi served sherry before lunch, and Fred showed off his new iPad (yes, I AM jealous). Fred also looked over a sheaf of poetry that I brought to him, and helped me decide on a cover image for the chapbook that he will design for me this fall.

The second recipe I found by following a link from the New York Times Food's twitter feed. It's one of Martha Rose Shulman's Recipes for Health (I love you, Martha Rose!). Normally, my dad sends me all of the links for good recipes from the New York Times, but he has just bought a new computer, and he's editing another math textbook, so I think he is too busy to ogle food in the newspaper online. The recipe is for a cold blender tomato soup. If I know my dad, he will send me the link in due time (probably between chapters), as I'm guessing he'll compulsively catch up on all of the back foody pages that he has missed, and send me a sheaf of links to follow.

While I have tomatoes on the brain, I am also watching about 100 of the beautiful fruit grow big and green on 3 tomato plants that we have at our house. Two are up on the deck, and one is down in the box garden. The cherry tomatoes have been ripening, a few each week, and I have gobbled them, standing beside the plant, as soon as they are ready. The big round tomatoes (Manitoba is their name) and the Romas are all still green, but growing in size and number. Andy and I discussed whether they should ripen on the plant or on the window sill, and did not agree. On Thursday, I was sewing a dress and listening to the radio, and Brian Minter came on CBC Radio 1's Almanac Show. I called in, and asked. He told me to leave them on the vine for optimum ripening and flavour, but to protect the plants from late-summer blight by putting up a rain shelter to keep the rain off the foliage. The Cherry and Roma plants are on the deck, under the overhang of the roof, so they are safe. The Manitoba is exposed. So on Friday, I bought plant stakes and poly, and made a canopy in the garden for the tomato plant. Let's see how it works now!

On Friday, I also shopped for ingredients. Lacking enough home grown ripe tomatoes just yet, I bought the yummiest vine-ripened ones I could find at Joe's Produce. They were just 79 cents per pound, for local ones. I also bought basil, the slugs having polished off my basil plant in the garden. The lady at Joe's was tidying the herb bundles up when I came to the cooler to find basil, so she gave me the biggest, freshest bunch, and a generous handful of extra sprigs. It looked more like a bag of spinach than basil! I needed sweet potatoes too, and found some. This isn't the greatest time of year for root vegetables, but that's okay, Joe's always has good stuff.

Here are the recipes, in my short and sweet version with editorial comments and adjustments for what I have in my kitchen. You can see the originals by following the links above (in the case of the sweet potato soup, you'll need to track down the book to see the original - I think it would be worth it, and plan to find a copy to buy myself.)

Sweet Potato (and Tomato) Soup
from The Book of Latin American Cooking by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz

1 pound sweet potatoes (the light coloured ones - not yams)
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
4 cups beef stock (Helmi said broth cubes are fine - I used Knorr powder)
salt and pepper

Peel, cut into chunks and boil or steam the sweet potatoes for about 20 minutes. Chop the cooked sweet potato coarsely. Heat the butter in a large fry pan (don't scrimp! this really helps make the soup delicious!). If you are a vegan, I think you could substitute 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onion until soft, then add the chopped tomato and cook for about 5 minutes. I wasn't sure about whether to include the juice and seeds from the tomato, so I did, but I held these out of the frying pan and added them directly to the broth. Put 1 cup broth into a blender or food processer, along with the sweet potatoes and tomato/onion mixture. Blend to a smooth puree. Add this to the remaining broth or stock, whichever you are using. If you are vegetarian, I think a vegetable broth, or even water would work just fine. Reheat the soup, and season with salt and pepper. The recipe says to garnish with chopped parsely or cilantro. Helmi says a blob of sour cream is nicer. I have tried both the cilantro and the sour cream and like either (or both together!)

This soup is spectacularly simple and VERY YUMMY! It looks more like sweet potato, but the ripe tomato flavour comes through beautifully. Despite being a pureed soup, it is not too thick and gloopy, so you will enjoy eating it in summer, when the tomatoes are naturally and locally ripe.

Blender Tomato Soup
by Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times Recipes for Health Series

2 pounds ripe locally grown tomatoes (Martha's specification, and I agree)
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup onion, chopped finely
2 Tbs sherry vinegar - I used white wine vinegar, having no sherry vinegar around
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (I think I used about 1/3 cup - they just smell so good, and there's a special on basil leaves at my house this week)
a pinch of cayenne
1 cup water

Take 2 medium tomatoes out of the bunch and grate them over a bowl, using a sharp, coarse grater. Dump them into a strainer that has been lined with cheesecloth, and put this over a bowl to catch the tomato water that falls through. Let it drip for one hour. (I thought this step was incredibly fussy, but when you taste the intense tomato flavour of the soup, you will understand that it is worth it.)

Cut the rest of the tomatoes into wedges and put them in another bowl with the garlic (okay, I used 2 cloves) the vinegar, the olive oil and a bit of salt. The onions are optional, and the instruction is to soak the chopped onion for 5 minutes in cold water, then drain and rinse before adding to the tomato bowl. I did this, although I'm not sure if it makes a difference.

After an hour, give the cheesecloth a good squeeze to work out the remaining tomato juice. Chuck out the pulp that's left behind. Er COMPOST the pulp that's left behind. Put the juice into the blender with the tomato/onion mixture, the tomato paste, cayenne and water, and all but a few of the basil leaves (save some for garnish). Ooops, I put all of the basil leaves in. Oh well, there were more in the fridge, which I used for garnish. Completely puree the mixture in the blender or food processer.

To serve the soup, pour it through a strainer into your soup bowl. Push the mixture through with a spoon or spatula. Most of it will go through, leaving just tomato seeds and bit of pulp behind. I tried it both strained and un-strained. Both are good, but strained is heavenly good. Garnish with a few basil leaf slivers. Very elegant!

I sat down at 8pm Friday, all by myself, to 2 beautiful bowls of soup. Fiona was out with friends. Alex and Andy were both at work. Had they been here, they would have heard my whoops of delight as I tasted the soups. (I might even have shared them, although I think I am the only tomato soup eater at our house.) For my solo supper of two soups, I ate four bowls (2 of each kind). The cold soup is astonishing in its beautiful flavour and light texture. The warm soup looks plain, but it's not. It has a depth and light richness to it, that you just have to taste to get.

By the way, did you ever notice that the segments of a tomato are sort of like the chambers of the heart? Probably, if you have done a dissection, you will tell me I am wrong, but whenever I cup up a tomato and squish out the juice and seeds, I think, "heart."

Did I say that would be short and sweet? I guess I was wrong. I do have the recipe for "sweet" down pat (I think) but I'm not so good at "short." I guess I am obsessive about cooking and compulsive about talking about it and happy with both conditions.

question: are you enjoying the fruits of summer?

mompoet - WHOOOPING when the soup is good



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

the wrinkled ladies

vacation

I have taken this week off work, to stay home and do "home things." So far it has been very nice. My sister Barb and her family were in town through the weekend, so we had some suppers, and went for a walk. They have left my niece Maya here to go to university and live at my mom and dad's place.

Andy and Alex are working this week, and Fiona is in full time rehearsals, so I have the daytimes to do just whatever I want to do, then I'm together with the family in the evening.

On the weekend, I got out to the Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival. Pandora's Collective organizes this annual event, which is every poet or poetry lover's dream day. I enjoyed some poetry performances and chatted with a few friends there. Irene came out, and we hung out together for a while. Back at home Saturday evening, our new neighbours Dave and Doris hosted a gorgeous supper for a few friends from the neighbourhood. They are wonderful hosts and gourmet cooks. They even turned their living room into their dining room. That's how much they enjoy entertaining. It was a lovely night.

Yesterday I visited with my friend Gwenda, who fell off the roof of her house at the beginning of the summer and fractured 2 vertebrae. Luckily she will have a full recovery. We ran a couple of errands together, and got caught up on what's been happening in our lives. After that I came home, and did my best to complete a book project that I've promised myself to get done this vacation.

The book project is a chapbook of my own poems. I've been part of collaborative chapbook projects for 10 years with the Shoreline Writers' Society, but never just my own. Now I'm doing it. My friends Helmi and Fred have offered their assistance. Fred does gorgeous book design, and Helmi knows my work, and has can help with some polishing up where needed. I think it will be a very nice book.

I have also found some time to read a novel this vacation. I'm reading Middlesex, recommended to me by my friend Cathy. It's very good.

So that's my vacation so far. I'll return to work on Monday. I'm planning to enjoy the second half of my days off, with more creativity, time with family and friends, and relaxing.

question: what did you do on your summer vacation?

mompoet - taking a break

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

the crow and the goat and the dandelion

At quarter to four in the afternoon

A pygmy goat was watching the moon

A crow up high was lazily flying

And keeping his eye on a dandelion.

The pygmy goat looked up at the bird

A crow in an airplane, ain't that absurd

And a dandelion and it ain't nearly June

At a quarter to four in the afternoon.

The crow swooped low and buzzed the goat

You call that heap of a hulk a boat?

And where did you get that ridiculous flower

At a quarter to four - an ungodly hour!

The moon gave a cackle and spit on the crow

Who pooped on the pygmy goat down below

Dandelion did a cartwheel and played the bassoon

At a quarter to four in the afternoon.

The dandelion's song was a spirited fling

'Bout a talented crow who could do anything

And a pygmy who loved him each day even more

When it reached afternoon time - a quarter to four.

So the goat docked his boat and prepared a feast

Which he served to the crow, who to say the least

Was impressed with the song of the singing weed

And the quarter to four delicious feed.

When the moon set down at three-forty-five

The dandelion said I'm glad we're alive

My friend the goat who cooks so well

And the crow whose stockings never smell.

And after their meal at nearly four

They jumped in the crow's plane and slammed the door

And the goat sang a song in the moonless night

Of a goat and a crow and a flower in flight.

They all flew away 'til fifteen to four

And the goat was not heard of not any more

The crow was remembered without any cryin'

And so was the song of the dandelion.


question: what do you do at quarter to four in the afternoon?


mompoet - looking up, looking down, occasionally singing

Monday, August 23, 2010

the most

Tonight, Andy and I will go to the pub with Alex, to meet my sister and her husband and my niece. The primary purpose of this trip is to see who can eat the most "suicide" chicken wings. These wings are so hot, that Andy says he can eat only two before his glasses steam up and his lips burn off. Alex and I do NOT eat suicide wings. Alex doesn't like spicy stuff. I like spice all right, but draw the line somewhere short of pure pain that overwhelms any kind of flavour. Suicide wings fall into that category. What's worse, they get you on the way in, and on the way out, if you know what I mean. Hopefully we will not gather as a family for the second part of the challenge.

Barb, my sister, is about where I am in the spice enjoyment spectrum. Maya and Kim, my niece and brother in law, are habanero hoovers. They toss back whole peppers like tic tacs! I have to admit, I'm looking forward to finding out how many suicide wings will be their undoing.

All of this got me thinking about the things we choose as marks of distinction. Maya and Kim can eat the most peppers, although Andy may beg to differ. I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world (although Fiona may justifiably claim my crown any day now). Alex knows the most about American politics, my Dad the most about Mac computers. Our cat is louder than a fire engine when she wants someone to pet her (I am not exaggerating). My mom knows so much about colour, when I bleached my cream coloured jeans by accident, and they turned a pale salmon colour, she knew exactly which colours to add back to make them cream coloured once again.

All of these talents are of no great consequence in the grand scheme of things. They are, however, part of our family lore, and all thing of which we are proud - for ourselves and for one another.

So tonight, whoever the victor may be, I hope that one of the other wing-eaters turns out to have the loudest belch, or tells the best joke. We all have to be the best, the most, the biggest and the champion of something.

question - at what are you best?

mompoet - ever respectful of achievements of dubious yet significant merit

Sunday, August 15, 2010

the great tomato soup taste-off - part 1




Recently, I wrote a facebook note about my favourite comfort food, which happens to be Campbell's Tomato Soup, with chopped spinach added, and feta cheese on top to garnish. My friend Jiyoon replied that I need to try Amy's Organic Tomato Soup. This started me on a quest to find out which commercial tomato soup tastes really good.

I looked through the local grocery stores and found Amy's easily. I also picked up a selection of soups, from generic (yellow label, black letters) to fancy tetra pak varieties. I assembled five soups (including Campbell's) and called my friends to help me with an official tasting.

Kirsi, Allan, Cathy, Terry, Shannon, Cal, Chris, Dave and Doris all agreed to taste. Andy and Wayne agreed to show up, but, disliking tomato soup in general, were simply spectators to our spectacle of slurping and pronouncing judgement over bowls of crimson liquid. I asked everyone to bring their favourite cocktail, and also "some food that goes well with tomato soup."

I set out to heat the soup on the stove. I realised I have only 3 pots with lids, suitable for keeping soup warm as tasters arrived, so I heated two of the soups in the microwave. I read the instructions on each soup container, and followed the most simple (not adding milk or cream, if the basic instructions called for water). I prepared a rating sheet for my tasters, including some rules for tasting. I also prepared dixie cups for small taste-size portions. Each dixie cup had a number, to facilitate a blind tasting. No fair knowing which soup is which before you score your soups.

the great tomato soup taste-off - part 2






The tasting took place outside our house, in my parking spot, and neighbour Chris's. We sat in patio chairs and enjoyed our soup samples in the fresh air. I served each taster his or her own selection of 5 soups in dixie cups. You'll see from the photos, we began early in the evening, and continued as tasters arrived through the evening. Nolan and Temem requested to join us, and became our teen tasters.

As you can see, the tasters took their work seriously. Most knew right away which soups they liked best, and which they did not. They recorded their responses, and I collected their tally sheets. Then they returned to their cocktails and the snack table of "things that go with tomato soup."

We began about 6:30, and continued until about 9pm, when the last of the tasters completed their slurping and rating. By this time it was dark. Plenty of beer, wine and snacks had been consumed. I took all of the tally sheets into the carport, where there's a light to see by, and put the scores and comments together.

the great tomato soup taste-off - part 3






The results:

In fifth place, with 27 points - CAMPBELL'S TOMATO SOUP
Comment - "bland and sweet"
One taster ranked this soup as his/her favourite of the five. Three tasters ranked it least favourite.

In fourth place, with 31 points - SAFEWAY TOMATO SOUP Comment - "generic"
One taster ranked this soup as his/her favourite of the five. Two tasters ranked it least favourite.

In third place, with 34 points - SUPERSTORE NO-NAME TOMATO SOUP
Comments - "decent" "okay" "yukkie"
One taster ranked this soup as his/her favourite of the five. One taster ranked it least favourite.

In second place, with 43.5 points - KNORR CLASSIC TOMATO SOUP WITH REAL CREAM Comment - "thick with herbs - good"
Four tasters ranked this soup as their favourite. Two taster ranked it least favourite.

In first place, with 45.5 points - AMY'S ORGANIC TOMATO SOUP
Comments - "fresh taste" "blech"
Four tasters ranked this soup as their favourite. One taster ranked it least favourite.

I found it interesting that every soup was the favourite of at least one taster AND the least favourite of at least one other taster. Everyone was surprised that good old Campbell's did so poorly. Several of us will be buying a different brand of soup as a result of this experience.

I learned a few things from organizing this tasting:
1) Every one of us has his/her own taste.
2) It isn't easy serving 5 of the same thing to nearly a dozen people, but it's worth it.
3) My friends will let me boss them around (I think because they trust they will have fun if they do).
4) Soup of the evening, beautiful, beautiful soup!

question: what is your favourite soup?

mompoet - forming new opinions and preferences

Saturday, August 14, 2010

MeTube

Here are a couple of YouTube videos from my feature set at the Vancouver Poetry Slam's Cover/Tribute Slam in July.





question: Are you Mike McGee?

mompoet - I'm not, but if I were...

Friday, August 13, 2010

wheat salad, memory, and early morning congress with slugs


I remember that I have a bag of whole wheat on the shelf, so I put a cup of it into a bowl of water to soak before I go to bed. In the morning, I remember that I have started a wheat salad, so I venture out to the garden, because I remember that I have some sweet, plump pea pods, ready for picking. I think they would go well with the wheat.

I pause to say that remembering creeps up slowly on me in the morning. Now that I am walking to work each morning, I reserve coffee-drinking for after my arrival at the office. This adds incentive to get walking, and prevents the urge for an ill-timed potty stop somewhere along the way to work. When I arrive at work, I put the coffee on for the seniors who will soon walk in the door, ready for a day of fun, and those who bound up the stairs after their early morning squash and tennis, ready for the coffee that they have also surely deferred, perhaps for reasons similar to mine.

That first cup of coffee aids remembering, mightily.

Let's go back to the garden. I am standing in rather lanky grass, still wet with dew. I am wearing my pajamas and a pair of pink croc shoes that Fiona used to wear when she was about 10 years old. Andy and I both use these as garden shoes. He looks very cute in them. I am scanning the 8 foot tall pea plants for treasure. It's interesting how pea pods are exactly the same colour as pea stems and pea leaves. The only variation on the plant is the blossoms, of which there are many more, and so potentially many more peas. After a moment of calm focussing, I see lots of peas. I make a mental note to look up more recipes using peas, a note which I instantly forget.

I notice also that the slugs have not messed with the peas. Perhaps they would fall off of the slender pea plant branches, or succumb to altitude sickness. At any rate, I am glad to find many pea pods, ready for eating by me and my family, and not already partially eaten by slugs. I pick a hearty handful of peas and stick them in the pocket of my dressing gown. Then I look at the kale, because I think I would like some for the pizza that I plan to make for supper. The kale has not fared so well with the slugs. It's early enough in the morning, in fact, that a fat slug munches brazenly on one of the lower leaves of the purple kale plant. I pluck the slug and fling it to the other side of the yard, where it lands in the lanky, damp grass. Why can't we get the slugs to eat the grass, like goats do? That way the slugs would be fed, and we would not have to mow the lawn. Well, I guess I don't like to eat grass, so maybe the slugs have the same good taste in vegetables that I have. I note to myself that slugs are more similar in aesthetic values to human beings than they are to goats. I instantly forget this thought, as well. I do remember to pick a bunch of mint from the garden, but not before I wipe the slug-slime off of my fingers in the damp grass. I do remember that slug slime is impervious to soap and water, but removes nicely with a lawn-wipe.

Back to the salad. I am now running short on time to pack lunch, shower and dress before walking to work. So in super-speedy mode, I concoct the following salad:

1 cup whole wheat, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
a good handful of grape tomatoes, halved
a couple of tablespoons of chopped mint leaves
one dressing gown pocketfull of pea pods, halved
one chunk of cucumber, diced
a slice or two of red onion, also diced

I mix these up in the container that I used to soak the wheat, then dress them with

1/2 cup olive oil
a splash of balsamic vinegar (proportion to taste)
salt and pepper

I mix this well, portion a lunch-size scoopful into a smaller container, and remember to pack a wee container of crumbled feta cheese, to garnish the salad at lunch time. The rest of the salad goes into the fridge where it will keep for a day or two.

I pack my knapsack, shower, dress, forget to water the petunias on the porch, remember my cell phone and iPod, and walk to work, leaving at 7:35am, just in time to NOT have to take the bus.

I arrive at 8:30am, and put the coffee on. I remember to put my salad into the fridge in the staff room, but know that it wouldn't have hurt it to stay warm in my pack until lunch. I dress in work attire, and get that cup of coffee. AHHHH!

Bigger AAAAAAHHHHHH! at lunchtime. The wheat salad is delicious. It takes considerable time to eat because the wheat is very chewy. The flavours and colours are nicely balanced and the pea pods are sweet and bright. I remember how much I like wheat salad, and I think about how I might incorporate more pea pods from the garden into tonight's supper. I haven't forgotten about the slugs, but they don't really bother me. They are teaching me about patience, and abundance (enough there for them and us!). I am teaching them how to fly.

question: what do you find on your shelf? in your garden?

mompoet - remembering to share with the slugs

circus

Cirque du Soleil just spent the night
in the drawer where we keep the kitchen scissors.
The scissors are not where I left them yesterday.
This morning, they straddle the jar of paper clips,
arms extended in a victory bow,
clips and snips, both grinning in triumph
at the completion of some feat
beyond the ability of most home office supplies.

The twist ties, if anything, are tidier than when I left them.
They line up smartly, according to height, width, and place of origin.
But I know they've been up to something.
Each one of them has been (precisely)
twisted.

Plastic cling wrap, wax paper, aluminum foil,
all have (I suspect) been extended to their full length
repeatedly
re-rolled and returned to their boxes
tighter, neater, and somehow more smug
than I have ever seen them.

I'm almost certain I smell grease paint
on the double-a batteries
eyelash glue on the scotch tape dispenser
and that rub they use for sore muscles
on the back of the trusty old stapler

If I were a betting woman
I would bet one hundred dollars
someone has been juggling these push pins
and using those rubber bands for trapezes
employing ball-point pens for stilt-walking...

The toothpicks have biceps.
Q-tips - tired divas
resting from back-to-back aerial performances.
The multi-head screwdriver
just shrugged off glittering spandex
and tucked it away in the compartment
with all of the screwdriver heads.

I search the baking parchment
like a left-behind programme
looking for clues of the night's revelry
proof positive of sensations unseen
but receive only a blank stare.
All acrobatic excess - flatly denied.
The circus has left town.
Scissors fold closed
slip sideways beside the stapler
where they belong.


question: what happens at your house during the night?

mompoet - world of imagination

Thursday, August 12, 2010

between

in moments before waking
the blank, the void, the blessed repose
general feeling of all is all there is
loop of non-linear bliss
walking, blank-faced through clothesline rows
of fresh-washed bedsheets
warm and sweet as a day in the sun

long, soft flight of strangely lanky shorebirds
built not of this world, nor nature
but of your nature, mine too
drifting and pulling
drawn by logic of memories and supposition
instinct of buried thoughts, surplus impulse
their nightly flight subsiding - soon
in pools of shallow tide

and you
your daytime self
poking your head from the earth
fresh as a pea sprout for that single second
that same warm emergence
a smell, a sound, a thought
for a minute, unrecognizable
thin membrane unfolding
easy landing
welcome home


question: good morning?

mompoet - awake

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

morning

he wakes early
before leaving for work
photographs the dawn and sunrise
leaves her a slideshow with her coffee and email
phones to say
look - it was even better than that
no camera can capture the colours
I wish you'd...

she pours her coffee
thinks how the first cup tastes best
thinks of her first cup ever
thinks of the smell of her mother's coffee brewing
when she was a little girl
remembers wondering...

her mother calls, then
tells how the raccoon family came again
tells how, hearing their clatter, she
went out to the yard in her nightie
watched them wash their food in the fountain that dad built
we stayed like that for an hour
it was like the old days with him here
you and your brother...

sometimes
your heart's desire is so close you
can almost...

mostly, you just have to wake up and go out and find it
life all around you, your toes cool in the damp lawn



question: what do you hold close?

mompoet - reflecting as summer closes

Friday, August 06, 2010

blue-bundance part 1






On Sunday, Andy and I drove out to Granny Frannie's Blueberry Farm in Port Coquitlam. It is actually owned by a granny, named Fran, and her husband. It is the sweetest place you have ever seen, and the berries are wonderful. In 3 hours we picked 51 pounds of berries. Then the fun began.

We brought the berries home in buckets. They looked so good that we kept scooping them off the top and nibbling them. They are hard to resist. My plan was to NOT resist them, but to share them with my family, and enjoy as much as we wanted over the next few days, but also to freeze a substantial quantity for the cold months. This sounded like a good plan, until I opened the fridge door to check out "how much room for blueberries?"

I quickly did some fridge-combing, and threw out a few expired items. I think the oldest thing that I found was some historical garbanzo beans from the beginning of time (those were NOT nice at all). I also found cranberry jelly, which caused some alarm until I remembered that I served a turkey at spring break - but still, that is old. I combined a couple of jars of simultaneous salsa, and ate a couple of pickles. There!

Did I mention that we bought a watermelon on the way home from the farm. Du-oh! You see, there is no sweeter combination in the world than chunks of watermelon mixed with fresh blueberries. Try a bowl full. The colours, shapes, textures and flavours are really yummy. So Andy and the kids and I sat down and ate watermelon and blueberries, and I packed some for our lunches the next day because the little lunch boxes stack more nicely in the fridge that big chunks of split watermelon do. See part two...

blue-bundance part 2






I consolidated a couple of the buckets to make 9 instead of 11, and got the camping cooler chests and ice packs out of the basement. Finally, I had most of the berries stowed for cool storage while they waited their turn to be frozen.

I proceeded to prepare the first batch of berries for freezing. I poured them into a plastic colander and rinsed them in the sink, shaking the colander as I rinsed, and picking out leaves, stems, dried blossom bits and anything else I found. The berries were pretty clean to start with. Andy and I are good pickers.

I shook out as much of the water as I could, then poured the berries onto cookie sheets lined with parchment. The idea is to freeze the berries in a shallow layer, then pour them into freezer bags, so you can use as many or as few frozen berries as you need, when you need them. I put the pans into the big freezer in the basement, and went out to the garden. I had an idea for a nice combination. Our garden is new for us this summer, and it's doing very well in the sunniest corner of our back yard. Among many delicious things growing there, we have rhubarb!

I put together a crisp for dessert... (see part 3)

blue-bundance - part 3






Blue-barb-arine Crisp

3 cups blueberries
1 large nectarine
1 cup diced fresh rhubarb
1 cup sugar
3 tbs. cornstarch
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs vegetable oil

Grease an 8 inch casserole. Put the fruit into it. Combine the 1 cup sugar and cornstarch then stir it into the fruit. Mix up the oats, brown sugar and oil to make a crumb topping. Sprinkle this on top. Bake for about 40 minutes at 350, until it's bubbling well, all the way to the centre.

While the crisp was baking, I made salads to go with supper. I used blueberries, of course.

The panic I had felt earlier at the prospect of storing huge quantities of fresh blueberries subsided as I smelled the crisp baking in the oven, and looked upon the beauty of the bowls of salad. Now I just have to figure out how to fit 45 pounds of frozen blueberries into the big freezer downstairs.

Ah well, life is sweet. Alex picked up a box of ice cream to go with the crisp after supper. We are blessed with abundances all around.

question: did you buy, pick, or grow your blueberries?

mompoet - happy and blue!

life full of life


This past week has just been full to the gills with activity - all good, but busy. I haven't had time to read, vacuum or blog. I will admit I've spent a bit of time web browsing - just not much posting except for "liking" some things that my friends have posted on facebook.

Now I have half an hour before I must dress and get ready to walk to work. I could blog about blueberries, but I have a pot full of porridge just ready on the stove, and a half of a mango totally ready to eat, and there are also (lots of) blueberries. So instead, I will read the paper and eat breakfast. I will blog about blueberries and other things later.

For now, this is a picture of August so far. I think you get the idea.

question: how is your summer going?

mompoet - WHEEEE!