Why a manly man made dainty hand pies and why you should too

Written by Danny.

The quick and easy answer is: You want to make these to have beer.  The more complete and correct answer is below.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting up with an old friend, Zaak, for supper and a beer tasting with 8 of his future housemates from Dragonfly Cohousing. 8 people and 13 beer over 2.5-3  hours (no one was keeping time) made for an enjoyable time of meeting new friends and tasting new beers.

As it happens, the only other time I had participated in a beer tasting was about 10 years earlier with my brother and Zaak.  3 people tasting 8 high-alcohol content beers made for a bit of a disaster.  Okay, a lot of a disaster.  We were genuinely interested in tasting the beers, but didn’t want to waste any. And one of us had to leave early (me) for a reason I can’t remember.

I’m planning to host a beer tasting of my own over the holidays, and want to ensure that it is not a disaster, and that everyone makes it home safely.  Part of my secret arsenal to do so is to serve lots of food, and these will include some hand pies.

Read on to see how easy it is to make mini Tourtière hand pies, and get the recipe for these savory holiday bites. [Read more…]

Root cellars and me (tips for cold storage)

Written by Danny.

When I grew up, almost everyone had a basement in their house.  Where Aimee grew up, basements were anomalies.  Our current house doesn’t have one, and so I pine from time to time and wax poetic about the virtues and benefits of having a basement.  Aimee disagrees (strongly), and sees them primarily as “dank caves” or glorified storage rooms. Most of the time, we agree to disagree.

What we both agree on, though, is that having a cool, dank storage room underneath your house can be particularly useful come harvest time when you want to be storing and preserving much of the season’s bounty.  Of course in this case, I’m not talking about a basement room with pool tables and dart boards, or ones with mini-bar, karaoke stage complete with disco ball and orange shag carpet on the floor, walls and ceiling (yes, we did see one of these when house hunting!) – I’m talking about root cellars.

When I think of “root cellar”, my thoughts immediately go to the first one I ever remember (first impressions…).  It was the quintessential setting for a horror movie: creaky door that didn’t quite sit on its hinges; no light; moldy smell; roots (fingers?) sticking out of the earthen ceiling and grabbing at my hair; the back part was condemned because it had caved in and we were warned to not go in too deep… in case another section of roof were to give way. *Shudder*.  Our family was visiting a farm, and I was asked to go get some carrots or something.  I just remember standing outside, about 20-30 feet away from the entrance and trying to drum up the nerve to go and pry open the door.  Mercifully, one of the farmers came to give me a hand with the door, so I didn’t have to enter alone.

Aside from the bravery and character-building that root cellars bring to small children, there are many other useful reasons to have a root cellar, whether as a separate structure to your house, or part of a cool room in your basement.  Because our garden is small, I haven’t had to dredge up those old memories and start digging a hole in the ground for a DIY on building our root cellar. However, given that it is time to be storing some of the amazing deals on produce that we’ve been getting from our local farms at the market, I’ll let you in on where we are storing our goods, and some of what you should be considering if you are looking for a cellaring solution. [Read more…]

Garden, chickens and more: an urban homesteading update

Written by Danny.

I‘ve just come off of 2 week vacation and have thoroughly enjoyed the time with my family – including the silly water boy above.  We feel like we are still taking baby steps towards our ideal urban homesteader lifestyle – but we’re doing it at our own pace and loving it.

I’ve chronicled some of our homesteading efforts here on Simple Bites before, but thought it would be good to update you on how we’re keeping up.  Or not.  So here goes. [Read more…]

Rain Barrels: How we installed ours and other tips

Written by Danny.

This past week, Aimee’s parents have been visiting from Northern British Columbia, visiting their newest granddaughter and hoping for some summer heat.  Unfortunately for them, the beginning of this week was cool and rainy.  Bad news for them, but good news for… our rain barrel!

Knowing that “we’re into that thing”, my dad had gotten us a pair of rain barrels about a month ago at a civic fair, and we installed them right away, wanting to get the spring rains stored up to get our gardens as lush as possible. This post discusses what we did to install ours, and some resources that I’ve pulled when trying to figure out what to do.

[Read more…]

Men making meals for mothers

Written by Danny.

Let’s face it: Mom’s are special, and deserve extra special attention and effort.  Our family typically eschews  most “commercial” holidays, such as Valentine’s and Festivus, but Mother’s day is a commercial reminder that is more than appropriate to celebrate.

So skip the chocolates and flowers: mothers just want time out of the kitchen.  Even Aimée, believe it or not.  The solution for so many is to pick a great restaurant and treat Mom.  And that is a good way to do it, of course, but then great restaurants probably cost a great deal, and you may spend more time with mom waiting in line to get a table than sharing a meal together.  So do it at home!

If you’ve been a reader of Simple Bites for some time, or any of the other SLM sites, you won’t find many recommendations to get gift certificates or other “big-box” standard fare.  Instead, SLM (and this author) believe that handmade gifts and just plain-old time spent together is one of the best gifts that you can give a person.  (One of my Christmas presents this year was a big latte bowl, some special coffee, a book and 2 certificates allowing me a sleep-in while Aimee got the kids up and fed.  Amazing.)

And so for Mother’s day, I’ll be doing breakfast in bed for Aimee with the kids and will be visiting my mom later that day – and bringing food. [Read more…]