Wood Range Hood Build

A nice wood range hood can run you a couple grand, easily, let alone a custom design!

I personally didn’t want to fork out that kind of cash if we had the skills to build an amazing feature piece ourselves for a fraction of the cost.

Plus, I would have it far sooner as a DIY project than saving and budgeting for the expense!

We already owned all the tools needed (I mean, we are renovating a 3 story house… tools are a must!)

Basics like measuring tapes, clamps, drills, drivers, etc. along with a brad nailer, miter saw, and table saw (which happened to be a birthday gift from my wish-list one year).

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The start to our Range Hood

The supplies included a sheet of high-quality plywood, a length of crown moulding, some nice finishing boards, a couple corbels, and a few choice pieces of trim accents.

Oh! And of course some good ol’ 2×4’s for reinforcement!

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Framing in the range fan

Once we had decided on the dimensions, building the box was as simple as cutting the plywood & supports and securing them together using a combination of screws and brad nails, based on whether you would see that part of the range hood when it was installed.

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We added a fan with lights at the end, so we decided to frame in the supports before we installed the wood range hood to make it easier.

Measuring the placement for the corbels

Then we lined up the accent pieces where we wanted to be, making sure everything was even and squared off.

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Clamping everything in place

Using clamps to hold the crown moulding to the top and bottom parts of the shelf helped make sure nothing moved when we began nailing it together. (the whole smarter, not harder concept…)

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All assembled and ready for primer

Next, we primed the wood.

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Primed and ready for stain

WOW! Does it ever make a difference in the quality of the finished stain job!

DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!

It helps the stain to soak into the wood evenly without streaks and really enhances the color.

First coat of stain

We added 2 different color stains; one with more brown tones and the other with red tones, allowing to dry well between coats.

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Starting second layer of stain

PRO TIP: Wear nitrile gloves when staining. The stain soaks into your skin just as easily as it does with wood and takes ages to wash out!

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All stained and drying – looking good!

My kitchen cabinets are all white, so having a dark stain for the range hood gave it an extra accent to draw the eye to the center of the kitchen.

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I add seasonal decorations to the shelf above the range hood to add a bit of color to the kitchen.

Eventually, I would like to find an antique metal piece to add to the trim box in the center of the range hood, but it has to be something with history that I love – and I have yet to find something calling my name.

The finished product!

Make sure to follow my blog for the post on creating this beautiful backsplash with the fireback and pot filler!

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Building a raised bed DIY

In this day and age, gardening isn’t just a plot of land that you till and plant.

Modern gardens range from traditional in-the-ground gardening, to window herb gardens in an apartment, to decorative raised garden beds that add to the back yard’s aesthetics.

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Raised garden beds not only look nice, but they are easier on the back when planting, weeding, and harvesting.

They also keep the soil slightly warmer than ground-soil temperatures and make it easier to keep the pathways nice and tidy.

While you can buy kits to build your own raised beds, creating them from raw materials really isn’t that hard – and is a lot more cost effective!

You just need a few tools and a bit of know-how.

Obviously, the first part of planning is deciding where you would like to put the raised bed and the size you want.

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For my most recent raised bed project, I wanted to have 2 identical raised beds that were 4’x10′ so I could add a decorative trellis arched between them for my beans and peas. (CLICK HERE FOR “HOW TO GROW GREEN BEANS!”)

You can make your raised bed whatever depth you would like; I wanted mine 12″ deep for this project.

We used 2×6 boards rather than 2×12 because not only do they tend to warp less, but it was also less costly to do it that way.

Next, we cut our boards to length – 4 boards 4′ long and 4 boards 10′ long per bed.

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Then, we screwed the lower part of the box together and then added the top boards.

We added some supports in the middle and “toenailed” a few screws on an angle to hold the top and bottom sections together.

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Staining was next! This was definitely the fun part! I personally love red tones, so we went with a deep red stain.

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Not only does stain add to the overall look of the raised beds, but it also helps protect the wood against the sun and rain.

Once the beds were both built, stained, and dried, we moved them into place and squared them off against the greenhouse so the paths would be even and everything in line.

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Filling the beds with dried out tomato plants, squash vines, and other plants from the summer before helped add some bulk to the base layer and add organic matter to break down over time.

We also had shavings and wood bark that needed to be cleaned up from around our wood pile, so we threw that in too! (I love the “two birds with one stone” projects like that!)

Finally, we topped it all off with a layer of good garden soil.

The project only took a few hours to finish in total and the updated look for my greenhouse area was well worth every minute of it!

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Follow my blog for the trellis project yet to come!

So what do you think? Have I inspired you to give it a try yourself? Drop a comment below!

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Fish Tacos

Fish tacos have been a difficult blog recipe to write about because of the nature of the beast…

Let me explain:

We usually spend a lovely day on the lake catching Northern Pikes (sometimes “lovely” means rainy and cool, but catching lots) and get home at midnight or 1 AM.

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The fish tend to bite really well after the sun begins to go down, hence our late arrivals back home (we usually have an hour or two of gravel country roads after getting off the water, depending which lake we went to).

Therefore, as soon as we get home with our fresh fish, Jake starts filleting them while I start prepping everything for fish tacos.

(I personally have filleted my fair share of salmon up in Alaska, but here?! Nope! Jake does all the filleting!)

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At this point we are usually STARVING!

… which means remembering to take any photos for the blog often falls to the wayside in favour of chowing down on some delicious fish tacos!

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We may or may not have had fish tacos for breakfast the morning following our last fishing trip (that’s normal, right?!) and I finally got some photos for this recipe!

I know many people don’t like the taste of Northern Pike, however I enjoy it when it has been cooked properly.

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And the fight?!

Wow! Northern Pike put up such a good fight that even a small fish is fun to catch, even if we have to throw it back because it was too small.

For me, the fish tacos are about the whole experience from beginning to end…

… the relaxing time on the sparkling water, the adrenaline rush when a fish finally hits my line, the quality time with my honey, and finally, the amazing taste of fish tacos (increased by our extreme hunger).

To debone or not to debone

This is a HUGE must for fish tacos!!!

I can not stress that enough!

When you are just having a fish fry, sure, you can pick the bones out as you eat – but that is not an option with fish tacos!

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If you don’t know how to debone fish yet, check YouTube for tutorials… or better yet, ask someone who knows how to do it to show you a few times and then try it for yourself.

I personally don’t know how to debone fish, but Jake has become a pro at it by now!

It does take practice to become proficient, but trust me when I say it is worth it.

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So what is my recipe?

The sauce is what really kicks these fish tacos up a notch.

I love a bit of heat, so I tend to add some spice to the sauce I make from scratch.

The other “yum factor” is using Cajun Fish Crisp when frying the fillets in butter.

It gives a nice crunch and the flavour is outstanding!

The fact that Fish Crisp is Canadian Made is also a bonus for me; I LOVE seeing that the products I buy support local economy.

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While Jake is out filleting the fish, I start by prepping the veggies.

I thinly slice the purple cabbage; it adds both color and crunch.

Sometimes I will add a few thinly sliced red onions to my tacos, but not always.

Next come the quartered cherry tomatoes and slivers of cucumber.

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I mix all the veggies together and drizzle with freshly squeezed lime juice.

Then I start on the sauce; a good scoop of sour cream, several splashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, fresh lime juice, cumin, cayenne, paprika, and a bunch of fresh cilantro all get blended together in my food processor.

(I just got this KitchenAid food processor and LOVE it!)

The heat level can be adjusted to taste; some people like spice like I do, however some people can’t handle anything too hot.

Once the fish is all filleted, I dredge the pieces in the Fish Crisp, then fry in butter on high heat until they are golden brown on each side.

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Then I heat the flour tortillas one at a time in a pan on high heat (without oil); once they start to bubble, I flip them and then remove them from the heat when the second side bubbles.

This brings out flavour in the tortillas and gives them flexibility so they don’t break when folded.

The next step is the long-awaited assembly of toppings and finally eating the fish tacos!

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The beauty of tacos is that each person can add the amount of toppings they would like.

Any extra raw fish we have left from our fishing trip will either get eaten for breakfast the following morning or frozen for future fish tacos.

I know there are tons of ways to make fish, but these tacos are just so good that we almost always go this route.

Recipe

Northern Pike (or other white fish)

Cajun Fish Crisp

Butter

1/2 cup purple cabbage

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup cucumber

Red onion, optional

Flour tortillas

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Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 lime zested and juiced

1 bunch cilantro

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Directions

Prep vegetables by thinly slicing cabbage and cucumber. Quarter cherry tomatoes.

Mix vegetables and drizzle with fresh lime juice.

Dredge fish in Fish Crisp and fry in butter on high heat until golden brown on both sides.

Make sauce by combining all ingredients in food processor and blend.

Toast flour tortillas to warm.

Add vegetables and fish to each tortilla and top with sauce.

Enjoy!

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Oh right! The last two pictures?

Yep, I couldn’t help but throw them in…

This was the biggest Northern Pike I have EVER caught (18.5 lbs – it was HEAVY to hold for photos)!

I was in a sit-inside kayak, no less! The guy at the kayak store told me I would never be able to catch fish in a sit-inside kayak and that I HAD to get a sit-on-top style to get fish… (guess I showed him! lol)

It took about half an hour to land this beast and I got pulled all over the lake in the meantime.

That night was well after 1 AM before we got home and got to eat some fresh fish!

There! I got my “big fish brag moment” in.

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What is your favourite way to make fish? Drop a comment below!

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Grandma’s Swiss Steak

I suppose this Swiss Steak isn’t quite the recipe Grandma used to make… Her style of cooking was “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” and recipes seemed to change slightly from one time she made a dish to the next.

Fundamentally, though, this has all the building blocks of that hearty, aromatic Swiss Steak we all looked forward to.

I have seen recipes that do not have mushrooms and some recipes that use carrots. You do you. This is my favourite combo for this recipe!

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One of the beautiful parts of a meal like this is how fast and easy it is to throw together for a crowd!

I will often use crockpots so I can prep our meal in the morning and forget about it until dinner time rolls around and it is time to eat. This is especially nice when you don’t know exactly when dinner time will be, which can happen when we are working on renovation projects or if there are quite a few people to “round up” before eating.

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I use an entire roast for this recipe; you can use round steak roast or other, tougher cuts that are cheaper since this will have a long, slow cook time to tenderize everything.

Make sure all the excess fat is trimmed off, then cut the roast into cubes.

Mix flour, salt, and pepper (I like a bit of heat, so I add some cayenne powder as well, but this is optional), then coat your beef cubes in batches.

Pre-heat a pan to a medium-high heat with a generous drizzle of canola oil, then place the floured beef cubes in the oil. You want to make sure your cubes are not touching so they brown nicely.

Also, you don’t want to get too much excess flour in the pan when adding your beef cubes.

The goal here is not to fully cook the meat; you just need it to brown nicely on a couple sides to make the flavour pop. The beef will finish cooking in the crockpot.

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Depending on the size of your frying pan and how much beef you have to brown, you may have to fry the meat in batches.

Once the meat is nicely browned, go ahead and transfer it into a large crockpot on low heat.

Next, add your sliced onions to the same pan and fry on medium heat until the onion begins to soften. This will enhance the flavour for your Swiss Steak.

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Transfer the onions to your crockpot, then add a little more oil (a tablespoon or so should do) and the remainder of the flour mix from coating your beef cubes.

Whisk the flour so it mixes with the oil and allow it to brown a bit before adding about 2 cups of beef broth. Mix again, then add this to the crockpot as well. This will make for a thick, rich gravy consistency for your Swiss Steak.

Next, add stewed tomatoes (or better yet, fresh tomatoes if you have some on hand!), garlic, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper flakes, oregano, basil, lemon juice, and mushrooms to your crockpot.

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Note: I prefer oven roasted garlic, so I make large batches in olive oil so I can simply grab cloves of garlic as needed. If you don’t do this, you can use raw, diced garlic.

If you don’t like spicy food or have family members that can’t handle the heat, go ahead and skip the cayenne peppers. The amount I use is enough for a bit of heat, but is not overpowering.

I should also mention that if you do not have Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar on hand, you can still make this recipe! These ingredients make the flavours pop, but aren’t a deal-breaker if you just don’t have them.

One last note! If you have fresh basil and oregano, you will need to add about double the amount I list in the recipe to get the same effect. I should also note that these herbs tend to get bitter when cooked too long, so you may want to add them closer to when you plan to serve the Swiss Steak.

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Mix well and allow it to slow-cook on low heat for a few hours. If you have all day, that’s great! The flavours will really develop the longer this cooks. If you only have a couple hours, that works too.

Oh! I almost forgot!

You can also make this a budget-friendly meal that is high in protein by adding dried lentils at this point… You can use less meat to save the pocket book, yet make this just as filling. The lentils will also help make the gravy thicker, which I prefer.

When you are about an hour or so before dinner time, add the sliced peppers. I like adding them toward the end so they still have a little crunch to them.

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Serve over mashed potatoes and enjoy!

If you end up with leftovers, you can change things up the next day by turning this into stew by adding cubed potatoes, sliced carrots, and corn and serve with fresh no-knead bread.

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Recipe

1 large roast, cubed

1/2 cup flour

Salt & Pepper

1 t cayenne powder (optional)

3 medium onions, sliced

3 cups mushrooms, sliced

5-6 cloves oven roasted garlic (or raw, diced)

1 large can Italian stewed tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced)

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1 T lemon juice

1 T dried basil

1 T dried oregano

1 T cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

2 cups beef broth

1 cup dried lentils (optional)

2 bell peppers, sliced

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Directions

Trim excess fat from roast and cube meat.

Mix flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne powder, then coat beef cubes.

Fry beef cubes in canola oil over medium-high heat until browned. Remove from pan and place beef in crockpot.

In the same pan, fry onion slices on medium heat until soft, then add to crockpot.

Add another tablespoon or two of oil to the pan, then brown remaining flour left from coating the beef cubes.

Add 2 cups beef broth and mix well, then add to the crock pot.

Add all remaining ingredients to the crock pot except peppers. Slow cook on low heat for at least 2-3 hours for best flavour.

Add sliced peppers about an hour before serving.

Serve over mashed potatoes and enjoy!

Serves 6-8

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Stuffed Mushrooms

Tasty appetizers are what make any dinner party’s menu pop!

Stuffed mushrooms happen to be my absolute favourite, so I’m going to share my secrete recipe with all of you…

Now keep in mind that when serving hors d’oeuvres (aka the fancy term for finger food appetizers), you typically would plan for 5-7 pieces per person – but you want variety!

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The length of the dinner party and how fancy you plan to make it will determine how many different varieties of hors d’oeuvres you should serve.

When I host Christmas, Thanksgiving or other dinner parties that will be an hour or more before dinner is served, I will typically have 3-5 different appetizers for my guests to snack on while we visit.

Devilled eggs, mini salmon patties in tartar sauce, and mini BBQ meatballs are just a few of the other finger foods I love to include at my dinner parties.

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But back to the stuffed mushrooms!

I prefer to use smaller mushrooms that will be one or two bites total.

The smaller the mushroom, the easier it is to eat between conversation; plus the mushroom-to-stuffing ratio is perfect!

Not too much cheese (as if that really is a thing), not too much mushroom… Like I said, the perfect ratio!

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Let’s start with the variety of mushroom to use!

White button mushrooms are the best variety, in my opinion, to use for making stuffed mushrooms.

Not only are the they a perfect size, but they also have a lovely, mild flavour and an attractive look (presentation matters)!

They are likely one of the easiest varieties to find at your local grocery store, as well, which is always a nice thing.

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Get cooking!

The first step is to remove the stems from the caps; you want to make sure that you remove the stem from the inside of the cap so you have a hollow to add filling into.

Dice the stems into fine pieces and place in a pre-heated pan on medium heat with melted butter.

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The stems should become soft within a few minutes, however I often will allow them to cook until they are slightly crispy.

This crispiness almost makes it seem as though I have added bacon the the recipe, but is a dish your vegetarian friends will still eat!

By all means, if you don’t have to think of vegetarian needs and want to throw in some crispy bacon – go for it!

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Next, mix softened cream cheese, shredded mozzarella, and garlic plus (or even better yet – minced, roasted garlic) in a mixing bowl.

Allow the mushroom stems to cool enough that it will not melt the cheese, then add to the mixture as well and combine thoroughly.

If there is extra butter in the pan with the mushroom stems, go ahead and add it to the cheese mix! It will add more flavour.

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Taking the empty mushroom caps, spoon the filling into them – try to push the filling into the very bottom of the hollow and leave a little dome on top of the stuffed mushroom.

This will give each mushroom consistent amounts of filling and uniform presentation.

After all the mushrooms have been filled, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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(Parchment paper, by the way, is one of my biggest “finds” in my baking journey! Hello to easier clean-up!!!)

Pre-heat the oven to 375º F and place the baking sheet on the top rack for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

If you are making multiple trays of stuffed mushrooms and don’t have a convection oven, you will want to rotate the pans from top to bottom half-way through baking.

Once they are golden brown, remove the baking trays from the heat and allow to cool until they are warm, rather than hot, then serve!

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They are easy to prepare beforehand and freeze so you simply have to thaw them before your next dinner party; give them a brief toasting in the oven to heat and serve!

Some optional additional ingredients to add are bacon (as I mentioned earlier) or crab meat.

Some people even choose to dredge their stuffed mushroom tops in buttered bread crumbs before baking.

Whichever variation you make of this delicacy, it is sure to be a hit!

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Recipe

12 white button mushrooms

1/3 cup cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 teaspoon garlic plus *or* 2 cloves roasted garlic

2 tablespoons salted butter

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Instructions

Remove mushroom stems and mince, then cook until soft in a pan with butter over medium heat.

Mix cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and garlic well.

Add cooled mushroom stems to cheese mix and combine well.

Scoop mixture into mushroom caps.

Pre-heat oven to 375º F and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool until warm (not hot) and serve.

Enjoy!

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These stuffed mushrooms go well with my loaded stuffed potatoes, premium roast beef, and grilled corn on the cob as a side if you choose to serve them with your meal rather than as an appetizer.

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How to grow Basil

Basil has so many varieties to choose from – some with a classic “basil” flavour, while others have a lemon hint… Some with small pointy leaves to huge green lettuce leaves to beautiful purple leaves.

The fragrant herb is tasty on salads and is a key ingredient in many Italian recipes, not to mention the health benefits!

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It helps reduce stress, promote memory retention, and boost the immune system, among other things.

Growing it at home is not hard and it makes a nice addition to any kitchen garden; there are few things I like better than running out to the garden to grab a few fresh herbs (and veggies) while I am cooking dinner!

Starting Seeds

When starting the seeds, you need to make sure they have enough heat or they will not germinate. I have waited… and waited… and waaaaaiiited for my basil to come up, only to have a warm summer day and suddenly there they were!

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Starting them inside, I would recommend getting a heating pad to help them germinate quickly; just at room temperature they seem to take their sweet time.

They like a reasonable amount of water, however like most plants, do not like to have wet soil with standing water.

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When it comes to soil, go with soft, well-drained soil with plenty of composting for the best results.

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Pruning

Did you know that pruning basil helps them produce more? It seems counterintuitive, but it is true!

When you prune, you want to look for the nodes just above a set of leaves; cut just above the nodes. This forces the plant to produce a new shoot out of each of those nodes, doubling the stems!

This helps produce a nice, bushy basil plant.

If you don’t prune, it will try to go to seed. I mean, that is the whole purpose of a plant, right? It is trying to gain enough energy to go to seed to produce more plants.

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Oh! And while you’re pruning, why not propagate a few new plants?

How cool is it that you can take the top you just pruned off, put it in water, and it will start growing roots?!

When propagating a new plant, make sure that you have a young stem; if it is hard and woody, it will not start roots.

It needs to have about 2 inches worth of stem to propagate well.

Also, you do not want to have leaves beneath the water line as they will get slimy and pollute the water.

After a few weeks, you should have a good root base and can transfer your new basil plant into a pot.

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Harvesting

Pinch the leaves off right at the base of the stalk.

They are best used fresh as soon as they have been harvested; basil tends to wilt rather quickly.

You can seal the leaves in a plastic bag, removing all air, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Preserving

One of the easiest ways to preserve basil is to dehydrate the leaves.

A food dehydrator is typically not an expensive purchase and can be used for so many different fruits, veggies, and even jerky!

Fill the trays 3/4 full and run at 175º for 4-5 hours or until leaves are crunchy and dry.

Another easy way to preserve the leaves is to finely chop them, fill ice cube trays with the leaves, and add olive oil.

These make perfect single-serve cubes for pastas and sauces.

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Saving Seeds

I typically let a few plants go to seed before the end of the season so I can save some seeds for the following year.

The pretty purple or white blossoms turn into small seed pods along the basil stalk.

Once they have swelled in size and started to die back, I will cut the tops off to bring into the house to finish drying.

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The seeds are tiny, black seeds.

I use a colander with very small holes to help sift the seeds from the chaff.

Store in a dark, cool, dry location for the winter.

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Did I miss anything you had questions on? Drop a comment below!

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Making seed tape DIY tutorial

Want to know how to make your own seed tape to save money?

One very blustery spring day, I got fed up with trying to plant carrots by seed in the relentless wind.

And we aren’t talking about just any wind here; I was in the Bahamas for Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and it reminded me of the winds we often get here in Central Saskatchewan in the Spring – and we were in a HURRICANE!

There is something wrong with that picture, thinking it was similar to home at a time like that…

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Needless to say, I couldn’t even open the seed packet outside without the wind catching the seeds and trying to carry them away – let alone try to get them planted!

However, I am not one to give up on a project that I am determined to accomplish.

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My solution? DIY Seed Tape!

It was 100% a DIY creation all of my own. I decided to test out a theory in making my own seed tape using nothing more than the seeds themselves, regular old paper towel, and a bit of water.

In order to make the seeds stay in place, I decided to wet the paper towel just enough that it was damp.

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Then I sprinkled the seeds onto the paper towel and folded the rest of the damp paper on top of the seeds to make them impervious to the wind.

This seemed like it would work quite well, so I started the process with several different varieties of lettuce, kale, and arugula as well.

I left some sheets whole, whereas other sheets of paper towel I decided to snip into thin strands to test which worked better.

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Let me tell you! The carrots benefited from being planted in thin strips; the large sheets that I planted had to be thinned far more and still grew too close together (I also used organic composting for the carrots planted in thin strips, subscribe to hear more about the results in a later post).

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I HATE wasting! And having to thin carrots after planting seems like a TERRIBLE waste!

On the flip side, if you do not thin them when they have been planted too close together, you end up with plenty of spindly carrots… Which is just as bad…

So the solution I came up with is to start by planting the carrots in the best spacing you can, using this homemade seed tape.

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When you are sprinkling the seeds to make the tape, think of how large you would like your carrots to grow in comparison to the spacing between the seeds; it will seem like you are barely putting any seeds in the tape, but TRUST ME!

Spacing seeds for the size they will reach when fully grown is one of the most difficult garden planning aspects, in my humble opinion.

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What steps did I take after making the seed tape?

I placed the homemade seed tape in my raised beds where I wanted each different variety to grow, then covered them with a thin layer of soil.

After that, I kept the soil moist (but not wet) for the next couple weeks. Certain varieties of salad mixes came up very quickly (arugula, I believe was only about a week to start popping through the soil), while others took a few more weeks.

At one point I was rather skeptical whether the seeds would be able to break through the paper barrier and make it to the surface, however as I checked the seeds (daily, might I add – it is an addiction, I know..) I watched as each different variety of carrot, romaine, iceberg, grande rapids, arugula, and kale found their way through the paper towel and soil into the warm sunlight.

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I will definitely be employing this method again next year and the years to follow, given the headaches it solved for me living in a windy area!

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Did you find this tutorial helpful? Leave a message below! I would love to hear from you!

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Carrots planted with my homemade seed tape

Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to find out about the organic composting results for my carrots!

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Easy Sourdough English Muffins

I love eggs benedict with sourdough English Muffins, but NEVER would have tried tackling making the muffins myself – until I suddenly found more time on my hands during this pandemic and needed to keep busy with things that interested me.

With a batch of sourdough starter, I couldn’t bring myself to simply throw away half the batch each day! I hate wasting things, so I went on the hunt for every recipe that I could use the “throw away” portion of the batch to make.

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Hence, FINALLY trying my own homemade English Muffins!

The process was easy, but it does take a bit of time and planning ahead to give the batch enough time to set overnight.

The night before, I mixed the sourdough starter, sugar, milk, and flour. I covered the batch with a tea towel and left it on the counter overnight.

The next day, I added the baking soda, salt, and remainder of the flour and kneaded well. If you are using a mixer, this will only take a couple minutes.

Next, I rolled it out so the dough was about ½ inch thick. I do not have a “biscuit cutter” so I improvised with the metal ring of a largemouth jar to cut the muffins into equal sized rounds.

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I floured a silicone baking mat and placed the English Muffins on it with plenty of space between them so they wouldn’t stick together while rising.

Setting the oven on “proof,” which is about 100° F, I covered the muffins with a tea towel and let them rise for 2 hours.

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They should puff up slightly during this process.

Then I preheated the griddle to 275º F and gently transferred the English Muffins to the hot griddle. I let them cook for 3-4 minutes before flipping them. They do puff up a fair bit while they cook, so I flattened them out with my spatula to give them the expected shape.

I cooled them on a cooling rack, covered with a tea towel, for a few minutes before trying them out. They had the perfect chewiness and sourdough flavor!

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This batch made about a dozen, so we had plenty all week long for breakfast sandwiches and muffins & jam. CLICK HERE FOR THE MARMALADE JAM RECIPE

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RECIPE

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup milk

2 cups white flour

***Mix and let sit overnight***

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup white flour

Roll out and cut into rounds. Let rise for 2 hours. Cook on griddle at 275º for 3-4 minutes per side.

Enjoy!

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Refried Beans

I personally find homemade refried beans much tastier than canned stuff you can buy from the store.

In addition, making my own ends up being more cost effective. A small can of beans is $2-$3 each, whereas a 450 gram bag of dried beans is about $3 and makes 4 times as much!

First, soak the Pinto Beans in cool water overnight. This helps cut down on the cook time once you get is on the stove.

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It takes all of 2 minutes to start the beans soaking, and just requires a little planning ahead.

The next day, top up your water level and bring the spot to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 2-3 hours or until the beans are soft.

I do not add salt while they cook during the first stage as I find it easier to taste test once the beans have been mashed.

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Drain the water and rinse the beans. Add 2 cups of fresh water and bring back to on a boil. At this point, turn the heat to low and mash the beans, adding about a teaspoon of salt.

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You can either leave the beans plain or you can add 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to add a bit of extra kick.

Cool on low heat until it is a consistent mixture and you do not have any hard lumps left.

This is a classic side for Mexican recipes and a staple ingredient in my fried taco recipe! CLICK HERE for the Fried Taco recipe.

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Mom’s Apple Pie

Few things bring back happy childhood memories like good ol’ fashion apple pie.

For me, the first memory that comes to mind is coming home sopping wet, smelling like snow machine exhaust after a day out on the trails with my family… and walking through the door to the smell of freshly baked apple pie!

After dishing up, we would sit down to play a board game as a family, more often than not it was Solar Quest – a space version of Monopoly (I always tried getting the monopoly on Jupiter’s moons).

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I used to help my mom make this homemade recipe as a kid and it is still a favourite treat.

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Last summer our apple tree produced enough apples to use home grown apples for the first time! I was elated!

Homegrown apples. Make sure to remove any damaged areas.

If I use store bought apples, I go with Granny Smith because their tartness adds so much flavour and their crispness is good for baking.

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Peel and core the apples, then cut into dice sized cubes.

Add the sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and apples to a large bowl and combine.

It will be fairly dry at first, but after it sits for a few minutes the sugars draw some moisture out of the apples, making a nice sticky texture.

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Next, make the pie crust.

Cut the flour and crisco together using a pastry blender.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg, vinegar, and water together well.

Once well mixed, add to the flour and crisco. Do not over-work the dough.

Divide dough into 4 equal sizes and roll out into rounds on a floured surface.

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Place one crust into the bottom of each pie pan, making sure the edges are long enough to come just over the lip of the pie pan about 1/2 an inch.

Add the apple filling, 3 Tablespoons of milk, and 2 Tablespoons of butter to each pie pan.

Moisten the edge of the crust. This will help it bond to the top crust.

Next, place to top crust over the pie and roll the edge to seal. You can get creative with fancy crust edge designs if you want!

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Ready to bake!

Add a few slits in the top crust to vent and prevent the filling from bubbling out the sides. May as well it make a pretty design while you’re at it!

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Dust the top with cinnamon sugar for the finishing touch.

Place into pre-heated oven at 400° for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool for a few minutes.

Serve with ice cream and enjoy!

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Recipe

Pie filling

8 large apples

2 cups white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter, reserved

3 tablespoons milk, reserved

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Crust

1 1/4 cup crisco

3 cups white flour

1 egg

1 tablespoon white vinegar

5 tablespoons cold water

Bake at 400° for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown.

Have you made apple pie from scratch before? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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