Ordered my seeds!


seedsDon’t you just love sitting curled up next to a cosy fire on a cold January’s night, dreaming of the coming spring and browsing through a seed catalogue? I do. And I get so excited poring over the gorgeous photos of vegetables, that I sometimes go a bit bonkers and order things that I really shouldn’t.

It’s easy to go a little overboard, but if one of your goals is to save money on groceries, then it’s logical to focus on what you eat the most of, especially if, like me, you have limited growing space.*

The first thing I did this year was to make a list of what we actually buy on a weekly basis: lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery, cauliflower, kale, rocket (arugula), cucumbers, cabbage, onions, garlic, and the “gorgeous ones” – kohlrabi and radicchio, celeriac, and fresh figs. Working from that list,  I narrowed down the list by eliminating things that take a lot of room to grow in the veggie patch, but which are inexpensive to buy: cabbage, onions, potatoes.

I’ve ordered my seeds this year from Baker Creek seeds in the USA. They have an incredible selection and I could buy the European heirloom seeds through them, cheaper than I could buy them over here.  I confess I do feel like a bit of a “buy local” traitor for doing so. Tell me what you plant!



*I could grow a lot more if my husband would consent to me digging up and planting vegetables in some of our lawn areas, but as I’ve not been the best caretaker in recent years of the vegetable plot I currently have, I need to demonstrate that I can take good care of the area I currently plant in. A “no tangled weedy mess” this year is thus my goal.

Green Tomato Pasta Sauce

Green Tomato Pasta Sauce

Makes 8-10 500 ml (16 oz) jars


  • 4 – 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced or chopped small in food processor
  • 3 cups sweet pepper (any kind), diced small**
  • 10-20 cloves garlic, minced
  • 22 cups of washed, peeled or unpeeled*, diced small**green tomatoes
  • 10 Tbsp spaghetti sauce spice****
  • 3 cups tomato juice (24 oz or 750 ml)
  • 2 cups water (16 oz or 500 ml)
  • 1/8 cup sugar (25 grams or 31 ml measuring spoon full)
  • 1 Tbsp salt (20 grams or a 15 ml measuring spoon full)
  • 1  tube (200 gram) of tomato paste (or equivalent, approx. 7 ounces or 200 ml)
  • 1.5 Tbsp dried crushed basil leaves(1.5 grams or 22 ml measuring spoon full)***
  • 2 Tbsp dried crushed oregano leaves (2 grams or 30 ml measuring spoon full)***
  • 1 cup red wine (optional – suggest something strong and dry like a Shiraz, but any will work fine)


Step 1
Heat the oil in a large pot. Saute onions, garlic, peppers and spice (not the herbs) until onions soften.

Step 2
Add the tomatoes and toss to coat with the other ingredients. Add the water and tomato juice, mix well, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it has all softened nicely and begun to reduced in volume.

Step 3
Prepare your jars (about 8-10   500 ml (16 ounce) and their accompanying lids): wash bottles and lids with hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly with hot water, then rinse again for good measure. Put jars and lids into large pot and boil for 10 minutes to sterilize. Set aside and keep hot.

Step 4
Continue cooking the sauce until it has almost reached the thickened consistency that you prefer. This may take up to an hour depending on your appliance and pot. If you like a super chunky sauce, proceed to step 6.

Step 5
CAREFULLY pour batches of the sauce into your blender and/or food processor (which has been sterilised prior to use) and process to a consistency you like. I do a bit of both, making a combination of smooth sauce and slightly less smooth sauce and then combine them back into the same pot.

Step 6
Add the tomato paste, red wine (optional), sugar and salt to the sauce and continue cooking gently until it reaches the consistency you like for your pasta sauce, then add the dried herbs and cook for another couple of minutes.

Step 7
Carefully pour or spoon the sauce into the sterilised jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Carefully wipe the rims and threads to ensure there is no sauce on them that would prevent a good seal. Put the lids on and tighten, but don’t pull a muscle tightening them too tight!

Step 8
At this point you should process in boiling water (canner) for 10 minutes.

Step 9
Carefully move jars to an out-of-the-way area where they won’t get bumped, and allow to cool completely.

Step 10
Once jars are cold, wipe them all down with a clean damp cloth to remove any sauce on the outside of the bottle. Check the lids. Any jars with lids that have not popped down should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a week.  Label all the other jars and store in cold cellar or other cool dark area where you keep your preserves.

Where’s the Meat?
This sauce is vegan, however if you prefer meat or TVP in your pasta sauce, when you go to use the sauce, cook your meat or TVP and add it at that point. You cannot safely can spaghetti sauce with meat in it unless you use a pressurecanner!

Talk to me about sugar and salt!
You will find recipes with considerably more salt and sugar in them. I prefer to eat as little salt and sugar as possible, so do not add a lot to anything I cook (baking is another story!). If you want to add more to taste, by all means do so.

* When cooking a sauce like this I rarely put myself through the tedious task of plunging the tomatoes into boiling water and peeling them – I chop them small, so when cooked, any peel in unnoticeable, and I get the added bonus of extra fibre! Please note, the measurement is of the usable chopped tomatoes themselves (measure as you go), not of whole tomatoes before chopping!

** As I have readers around the world, I do try to put measurements in all formats, however I do not always weigh ingredients as I prefer to work with North American measuring cups and spoons. So unfortunately, I cannot tell you what these ingredients are in a bushel or peck or ounces or grams as I did not weigh them. If you do not have North American measuring cups on hand, the easiest solution is to find a cup or mug that holds 240 – 250 ml of water and use that as your measuring “cup”.

*** You will notice this recipe calls for dried herbs, as opposed to my usual mantra of fresh herbs only. You are free to use fresh herbs (just triple or quadruple the amounts in volume, not weight). I used dried as I find that fresh herbs are a luxury and flavour is best uncooked  or slightly cooked at most, so when I am making something that is cooked/processed like this, I use dried.

**** My spaghetti sauce spice came from the spice market in Istanbul. I have no idea what is in it, but judging from the taste I would guess it has paprika, oregano, basil, parsley and dried garlic in it.




I just finished watching Vegucated – a film by Marisa Miller Wolfson.  I’ve always made a lot of vegetarian choices, lately have been making more and more, and after seeing the film today I have decided that I need to start making a lot more vegan choices.

I loved the film – and I greatly appreciated a lot of what the participants said – one poignant statement that stuck in my mind was “Veganism is not a religion.” – I think that’s where I fell done before – I was so “religious” in my veganism that any “slip” – intentional or unintentional – would send me sprawling with guilt. And it resulted in a crash and burn. The film brought home the reality that veganism is not a religion – or really that we shouldn’t allow it to be a religion. I’ve taken that on board. I can’t go at it with the mindset of “It’s all or nothing”. I need to start with accepting that any changes I make, make a difference – and the more changes I make the bigger difference I will make. I mustn’t allow the self-sabotaging “purist” attitude to emerge again. Rather, my new outlook must be one of conscious eating, mindful eating – and above all, of ownership: owning my choices in life, not least of which are my food choices.

We all want to make the world a better place – for ourselves, for our fellow human beings and for the other creatures that we share the planet with. I realised after seeing the film that choosing “ethically raised” meat and dairy products still ends in tragedy for the animal – in commercial farming businesses, when an animal’s days of giving milk or eggs is over, they are still brutally slaughtered. So I have to rethink my dairy and egg consumption. We all know Red Tractor standards are a complete joke. Freedom Food animals may have a better life – but how horrific is their death?

I have to find some good vegan cheeses – who knows, maybe I will transition to no cheese at all, but right now I am rather addicted. I like soya milk (and can get good non-GMO organic soya milk easily) and I can buy (and have successfully made) delicious soya yoghurt. I’ve cut out butter already and eat coconut oil or olive oil instead. Eggs in baking are occasionally a challenge depending on the recipe – I’ve tried egg substitutes (chia seeds, flax) with varying success – maybe I could get some rescue chickens, allow them to lay as many or as few eggs as they wish, give them a loving environment to end out their days, and when they pass on, bury their little bodies with respect?

Oh the thoughts they are a swirling😉

Cherry Plum Wine


Have you seen the gorgeous little yellow and purple cherry plums on the trees? We are planning to make this on the weekend. Well, start it anyways! It takes about six weeks until it can be bottled. 

Cherry-plums     cherry-plums

Cherry plum wine

2.8 kg cherry plums
1.4 kg sugar
approximately 4 litres of water
1 sachet wine yeast – any red wine yeast will do nicely
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 tsp pectolase

To extract the juice out of the plums, boil one litre of  water and pour it over the fruit then use the end of a rolling pin, crush the fruit until there are no lumps left. Leave for a few hours then add the rest of the water and the pectolase.

Leave a couple of days then strain through a fine sieve. Put the juice into a saucepan, bring quickly to a boil then immediately turn off the heat. 

Pour the hot juice over the sugar and stir until dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Add the yeast and yeast nutrient. Bring the volume with water to 4.5 litres if necessary. Pour into your demijohn using a funnel. Add the trap. Rack off into a clean demijohn after four to six weeks and again a few weeks later if you want. Bottle when clear – or even if it doesn’t clear completely, bottle it anyway.

Message in a Bottle: A romantic idea or desperately naive?


I came upon a blog today where the writer talked about fulfilling her long-held romantic urge to throw a bottle in the ocean with a note inside. I responded in a bit of a heated manner and left a link behind with an article on what a dump the ocean has become.

Not so romantic after all.

Not so romantic after all.

I am sure that polluting the ocean was not her intention – but all of our actions have consequences – whether we “intend” or not. And our planet is slowly dying. We can either duck our heads in the sand, throw our hands up in the air and say it is too far gone to make a difference – or we can do our best to keep our own corner of the world, clean.

As I was reading through the article and the comments from other readers (most of whom thought it was a “cool” idea), I honestly felt a bit sick inside. She inspired a number of people to put it on their bucket list as well.  Ouch.

When do we wake up? When do we as a human race draw a connection between our individual choices and the impact we have on others – whether that be our fellow human beings or the environment?



Spelt Bread with Figs and Walnuts


The origins of this recipe stem from a Dove’s Farm recipe which I then modified.* It makes a  delicious, firm-textured loaf that is delicious sliced, toasted and spread with butter. It is equally tasty with a sweet or savoury topping (e.g. jam and cheese both work well!). A fabulous accompaniment to baked beans. In short – it rocks!



1 tsp yeast (slow acting “traditional” yeast)
45 ml (3 Tbsps) warm water
500 grams wholegrain spelt flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp honey, sugar or agave syrp
300 ml lukewarm water
15 ml (1 Tbsp) olive oil (cold-pressed virgin preferably)
130 grams dried figs, chopped to 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) dice
80 grams walnuts broken up a bit (not too finely!)
60 ml (4 Tbsps) orange or apple juice


1. Mix the yeast with 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water and leave for 15 minutes.
2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, and sugar.
3. Mix together the yeast mixture, olive oil and the 300 ml of lukewarm water.
4. Knead well for about five minutes until you have a smooth and pliable dough. I use my Kitchenaid mixer for this as I am lazy and it has a bread hook.
5. Leave the dough in a bowl covered with a cloth, in a draught-free place, to double in size.
6. Meanwhile put the chopped figs, walnuts and orange or apple juice in a small bowl and leave them to soak in the orange juice.
7. When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, add the soaked figs and walnuts and work them through the dough, kneading firmly for several minutes.
8. Shape the dough and put it into an oiled 1kg/2lb bread tin or place it on an oiled baking sheet. I love a round loaf so I bake it in a small round spring-form pan which I lightly oil with olive oil.
9. Cover & leave dough to rise for about 40 minutes in a warm place. On top of your water heater, above the fridge, the airing cupboard, etc., are all great locales that are usually warmer than the rest of your regular living space. At about the 30 minute mark, if the bread is rising nicely, you should turn your oven on to start pre-heating it.
10. When it has risen to a lovely size, it is time to bake – remember, once you put it in the oven the heat kills the yeast and it will not rise any further, so don’t put it in the oven until it is the size you are hoping for!
11. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 40-45 minutes.
12. Remove from oven, COOL IN PAN for 10-15 minutes, then gently turn out onto rack to finish cooling.

Store in thick ziplock plastic bag or other airtight receptacle.

Re: Oven Temperature 

Oven 425°F (220°C)
Convection (Fan) oven:  425°F (200°C or Gas 7)

I baked it at about 375°F (fan oven) as it was browning too quickly – the baking temperature is not set in stone – everyone kind of knows their own oven and its idiosyncrocies , so adjust temperature (lower) as you see fit.

* The original recipe is found here: http://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/recipes/fig-and-walnut-bread/

Delicious Raw Fruit and Nut Bars


The other day I bought one of these.


It was quite tasty. It has two ingredients, in pretty much 50-50 proportions: cashews and dates. That’s it. I paid 75p for it – that’s about $1.38 CAD ($1.10 US). For a 35 gram bar.

Looking at the ingredients, I thought, “I can make this myself. And it won’t cost even a fraction of that. So I did. I modified the recipe to what I had in the house already: a bag of organic brazil* nuts, a cranberry-raisin-date mixture, and some chia seeds. I threw everything into the food processor, shaped them, rolled them in unsweetened coconut and guess what? They taste even better than name branded raw cookie bars. Scrummy.

90 grams of dates (or mixed dried fruit)
130 grams brazil nuts
30 grams chia seeds
Unsweetened coconut (optional)
Whir in food processor until finely ground, sticking together and able to be shaped. (Depending on how moist the fruit is you may need to add a few drops of water.

Measure them out (about 35 grams per serving)
Shape into little logs. Optional – roll in unsweetened coconut. Keep covered in refrigerator.


Those of you with a cat will be thinking what I’m thinking, but hey, they taste fabulous!

Do you make your own raw cookies or bars? Please share!

* Brazil nuts (like all nuts) are high in calories, but they are also high in a lot of trace minerals (in particular, selenium). And nut oils are good for you. So enjoy these treats in moderation.