Algonquin Park Camping: Day 2

Day 2 of camping at at the Achray Campground on Grand Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park dawned rainy, but the precipitation quickly moved on. This left us with clouds in the morning, a brief rainstorm in the afternoon, and a mix of sun and clouds for the afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, there was never much of a breeze, so nothing we brought with us really dried out, but we had fun anyway.

The day began with cooking bacon, eggs, and toast (with bread machine bread baked in advance of our trip) on the old Coleman camp stove. I am particularly fond of the camp toaster, which was always my favourite part of the setup as a child.

It was a hearty and delicious way to start the day!

After cleanup we headed out to the lake, which is where we spent the majority of our day.

The shallow, sandy beaches meant that the kids were quite content to play and explore for hours.

We found teeny tiny catfish (at most an inch and a half long) in the weedy shallows, where they were industriously cleaning the lake bed.

There were also tonnes of tadpoles in every stage of becoming frogs — some had no legs, some had two, some had four, and some were basically frogs with tails — alongside full-grown frogs. A few swam by us while we were swimming, while others stuck to the weedier or rockier areas.

I honestly think that our favourite part of the day was all of the tiny minnows that swam around our feet and nibbled on our toes while we waded in the shallows. Video of that will have to wait until I can get it off of my other camera, but I think it’ll be what the kids remember the most from this trip.

When we headed away from the water we found wild raspberries, which was an unexpected and tasty treat.

I cooked dinner over the single-burner backpacking stove, since the old Coleman decided to act up for a bit. I basically made tuna noodle casserole, but with frozen corn instead of canned, and canned salmon instead of tuna. Also, having no oven, I couldn’t bake the dish.

I don’t think that my alterations improved the dish any; without the potato chips topping and baking to combine the flavours, it was pretty bland. I should at least have grated some cheese on top, but I didn’t think of it. But it was warm and filling and we were sitting somewhere dry, which sometimes is all you can ask for when camping. As a bonus, the only perishable ingredient was the frozen corn, which in its turn helped keep the other food cold.

Also, did I mention that there were butterflies? Well, there were a lot of butterflies. The monarchs in the area really like the milkweed blossoms, which were just coming out of bloom, and milkweed was everywhere. Apparently these monarchs are endangered, but you’d never know it from how plentiful they were around our little corner of the park.

613Flea on Saturday

I’m very happy to say that I’ll be at 613Flea in the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park tomorrow, Saturday April 21st, from 10:00am to 5:00pm. I’ve been to 613Flea many times before as a shopper, and I absolutely love all of the interesting vintage items and fabulous handmade creations that I have found (and bought) there. I’m really looking forward to exhibiting there this weekend for the first time. It’s a really big event for this neck of the woods, with over a hundred vendors!

Of course, since I’ve never set up a booth there before, I don’t have any pictures of my stall at this particular market. However, I do have some from a few weeks ago at Russell Flea. I experimented a bit and tried a new layout; I’m still on the fence as to the pros and cons.

This layout allows for more items packed into the same space, but I’m not sure that it makes it any more approachable.

Depending on the layout of the space I’m assigned, I may go with the same setup, or just one long table, or an L-shape… I’m still not sure. But I’m well-signed and pretty visible no matter what shape my tables take.

I’ll be at booth 100, in the northwest corner of the building.


Image via Google Maps.

If you’re not sure about cardinal directions, the map above has been nicely labeled by the 613Flea organizers. Basically, if you come in the door closest to Bank Street, I’m on your far left.

And I’ll be bringing all kinds of treasures!


Shabby chic candle holders and vintage Tupperware jugs.


1950’s coloured Pyrex.


1970’s Pyrex from England.


1980’s blue glass Pyrex.


All kinds of little vintage kitchen gadgets.


Corningware Spice of Life bakeware and kitchen accessories.


1970’s enameled cookware.


Casserole dishes & apple bakers.


A vintage Sadler teapot…


…or two.


Snowflake-printed Pyrex from 1956-1960, one of the first patterned dishes released using the screen-printing process.


1960’s Canadian Meladur Rainboware (essentially Melmac).


Vintage Tupperware.


And more Sadler teapots, this one with matching cream and sugar!

And a whole lot more!

Hope to see you there!

Cleaning Enameled Cast Iron

I picked up a box of old, used kitchenware a while back, and buried down deep at the bottom was what looked like an enameled cast iron casserole dish. It was in pretty rough shape.

The inside wasn’t too badly off; there seemed to be some staining, but no chips or pits in the coating. The outside, however, was a mess:

My best guess is that the previous owner(s) had regularly cleaned the inside where food would actually touch, but were lackadaisical at best about cleaning the exterior. There was a brand name on the bottom, but it was so covered in gunk that I couldn’t quite make it out. But it seemed like a solid piece, so I decided to give cleaning it up a shot.

(I was also going to write about two vintage Pyrex dishes from the same box that had cleaned up really nicely with a lot of elbow grease, but yesterday I managed to bump into them and send them crashing to the floor. They hit each other on the way down and shattered into teeny tiny little pieces. They were only Cornflower Blue dishes, probably about 30 to 40 years old and not terribly rare, but after all that work I was — and still am — rather pissed off that I made such a stupid mistake. Anyway, that’s why there are Pyrex casseroles in that photo as well.)

One of the suggestions that I found online was to coat the piece in a paste of baking soda and lemon or lime juice, so I tried that first. If nothing else, it smelled nicer than any other cleaner I tried!

It actually made a pretty good dent in polishing up the interior.

However, it didn’t have the penetrating power to get a the worst of the exterior’s years of caked-on grease. I’m going to keep this technique in my arsenal for future reference, though, since it did do wonders for the areas where the damage wasn’t so bad, like on the outside of the lid.

The next tip I tried was to soak the pot overnight in a solution of two parts water to one part vinegar. This made so little difference that I didn’t even bother taking a picture. It was just a waste of time.

My friend suggested that I fill the sink with water and add two dishwasher pods, which did end up being the technique I was looking for. Even so, I had to soak for 12 hours, give it a scrub, change the water, and then return it to soak. This technique took three days, but just look how it turned out!

While it was soaking, I was finally able to get a good look at the logo. It’s a Nomar braiser, and my research dates it from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s:

At some point Nomar was bought out by Staub, which is a competitor of Le Creuset. Apparently, back when they went by the Nomar name, the brand was an even stronger competitor. And Le Creuset is the be-all and end-all of cast iron ware these days!

My roaster holds about 2.5L, which puts it between Le Creuset’s 1.5L and 3.5L braisers… Which retail for $200 and $340 CAD, respectively. So my piece old Nomar was definitely worth the work I put into it!

And I have to say, it’s awfully pretty.

Squash & Pear Casserole Recipe

For Thanksgiving dinner, my mom made a lovely squash casserole as part of the main meal. (You can see it on the bottom right hand side of the table in the last picture in the post linked above.) It was so good that I asked her to share the recipe with me.


My stab at this delicious casserole.

Mom sent me the link to The Spruce’s Butternut Squash and Apple Casserole With Crumb Topping recipe, but then she sent me a list of the changes she’d made that turned it into a significantly different dish.

Last night I tried Mom’s version, which has pears instead of apples (’cause that was what she had on hand), and includes walnuts for crunch (the best part of the dish in my opinion). The topping stays pretty much the same, but it really wasn’t very crumby. The photo in the Spruce recipe was obviously taken before the dish was baked. Rather, as the butter melts it carries the spices and sugar to ingredients at the bottom of the casserole. This doesn’t make it any less tasty (I’d venture to say that it actually enhances the flavour), but I’d hesitate to call it a “crumb”.


Squash & Pear Casserole served with pork chops with an onion soup mix glaze.

Squash & Pear Casserole
Serves 4-6

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
Peel, remove guts and seeds, and cut into bite-sized pieces:
2 1/2 lbs butternut squash (approx. 1 medium)*
Core and cut into bite-sized pieces:
3 green pears
Place squash and pear pieces in a casserole dish that fits these ingredients with a bit of room to spare. Stir to mix.
Sprinkle over the mixture:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts**
In a separate bowl, mix together:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
To the sugar and spice mixture add:
1/4 cup chilled butter***
Using two knives or a pastry knife, cut the butter into the sugar and spice mixture until the pieces of butter are a roughly even size, about the size of a pea.
Sprinkle butter and spice mixture over the contents of the casserole dish.
Bake, covered, for 50 to 60 minutes****, or until the squash is easily pierced with a fork.
Serve using a slotted spoon so that the cooking juices are left behind in the casserole dish.

*This casserole would work equally well with squash of a similar texture such as acorn squash or pumpkin.
**Chopped pecans may be substituted for chopped walnuts.
***Margarine may be substituted to make this dish vegan/vegetarian. However, the margarine has to be the kind that is hard when cold, or it will not cut into the sugar & spice mixture properly.
****This dish may be prepped ahead of time, refrigerated overnight, and then baked just prior to serving. If the dish is still cold from the refrigerator, allow for an additional 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time.

Vegan Mac ‘N’ Cheese: Canadian Edition

A friend of mine sent me a link to the Gotta Have It Vegan Mac ‘N’ Cheese recipe from Tasty (video available here), since they know of my love for macaroni and cheese, but I’m currently forgoing dairy. I gave it a try the other day, and I have to say it was actually pretty good. As I’ve found with so many dairy-free or vegan versions of other recipes, it was a little bit off from what I’m used to, but this one was tasty enough that my kids asked for seconds, which is a pretty good recommendation in our house.


Vegan mac ‘n’ cheese in the “proper” macaroni and cheese casserole dish.

One thing that I found was that the “cheese” had a problematic texture. Even when I got it to the proper consistency, it thickened really quickly as soon as it started to cool. The vegetable puree was just starch on top of the starch of the noodles, with no fat or oil to smooth it out and make it flow. I think that the addition of an oil of some kind (olive or canola) would greatly improve the texture of the sauce. Additionally, this sauce could be used as the start of a number of different kinds of casseroles. I think adding cooked vegetables (for the vegans) or canned salmon/tuna would add some variety and flavour.


Vegan mac ‘n’ cheese with a side of steamed sugar snap peas drizzled with Heinz Sweet Teriyaki & Ginger Vegetable Sauce.

I think the reason I keep wanting to add things to this recipe is that the base flavour was incredibly bland. When I made this recipe for my family, I used the seasoning ideas in my mom’s homemade macaroni & cheese recipe and added 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 tsp table mustard. Also, I didn’t find that I needed an onion and onion powder; just the fresh onion would have sufficed. I think that the flavour of the sauce could have been boosted by using a clove of fresh garlic instead of garlic powder.

So would I make this recipe again? Most likely, but with all the modifications I’ve previously mentioned. I mean, there are a dozen changes and versions that have been made to my family’s mac ‘n’ cheese recipe, so don’t take it as a bad thing that I would do the same to someone else’s dish.


Canadian Eh? Shapes Pasta

Now, what made this vegan mac ‘n’ cheese particularly Canadian? I used Canadian Eh? Shapes Pasta, which is available at Bulk Barn. The shapes are a bear, a maple leaf, and a moose. Sadly, the shapes were mostly obscured by the “cheese” sauce; I think these noodles would work better in soups if you want to see the shapes. However, they tasted just fine! I have extra that will probably make their way into my lunch for the Canada Day weekend. Oh, and they’re also all-vegetable, if you’re trying to keep your pasta dishes vegan.

Oh, and on a semi-related pre-Canada-Day note, I present you with the Arrogant Worms and their “anthem” called Canada’s Really Big. Enjoy!

Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

There is a lot of contention out there as to what makes a good shepherd’s pie. I distinctly remember an episode of Kitchen Nightmares where Gordon Ramsay laid into the chef because the restaurant’s shepherd’s pie contained beef instead of lamb. I didn’t actually discover that this dish is supposed to have lamb in it until about five years ago. Apparently “cottage pie” is what you call it when it’s made with beef. The dish that we called shepherd’s pie that I grew up with was always made with beef because my mother prefers it that way. I never thought to question it.

As the vegetable part of this casserole, I use corn (sweet corn, not maize), although I understand it is more traditional to use peas. I never made this dish for my British Nan, but at one time she refused to eat corn as it was “cattle feed” and believed it to be beneath her. Now, Nan lived more of her life in Canada than she did in England, so she may have relaxed her point of view somewhat, but I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by her visiting relatives. I don’t know if this is a wide-spread belief or one restricted to my family. At any rate, corn is not traditionally part of this dish.

Lastly, I structure my dish more as a casserole and less as an actual pie. Traditionally, the “crust” of the pie is supposed to be the mashed potatoes, but a quick Googling shows me that I’m not alone in putting the potatoes on top.


When the dish is served, you should be able to see the strata of meat & gravy, veggies, potato, and cheese.

Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 6-8

Peel and cut into large chunks:
8-10 (about 1Kg (2.2lbs)) medium white-fleshed potatoes*
Place the potatoes into a large cooking pot. Fill pot with water until there is an inch covering the potatoes. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Cook potatoes until they can easily be pierced with a fork.
While the potatoes are cooking, in a non-stick frying pan heat:
1 Tbsp olive oil
Add to the oil:
1 small yellow onion (yields about 100g (3.5oz))
2 cloves garlic**
Cook on medium heat until onions are translucent with light brown edges.
To the onion mixture, add:
700g ground lamb***
Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook the lamb until it is lightly browned, regularly draining the grease.
To the meat mixture, add:
1 can of cream of mushroom soup****
1 can of water
Stir until soup is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently until soup has almost reduced back to its original canned consistency.
While the meat and gravy are simmering, drain the potatoes. To the potatoes add:
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 Tbsp 2% milk
Whip or mash the potatoes until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C)
Spread the meat and gravy mixture evenly on the bottom of a casserole dish. On top of this, pour evenly:
2 cups frozen corn
Spread the mashed potatoes evenly on top of the frozen corn. On top of the potatoes, sprinkle:
1 to 1 1/2 cups loosely-packed grated cheddar cheese
Bake casserole at 350°F (175°C) for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce bubbles up around the edges of the potatoes.
Serve with a side of steamed vegetables, if desired.


It’s difficult to scoop portions that don’t fall apart if you bake this dish in a round casserole. If you want perfectly rectangular servings, bake it in a rectangular dish and serve in slices.

*This dish works really well with leftover mashed potatoes, so if you have enough left over from a previous meal, skip the potato preparation steps. If the potatoes are cold, a slightly longer cooking time may be in order.
**1 tsp garlic powder may be substituted for garlic cloves; however, the powder should be sprinkled over the ground meat instead of cooked with the onions.
***Meat may instead be 50%/50% ground lamb/ground beef, ground lamb/ground chicken, ground lamb/ground turkey, or any one of these meats by itself. Keep in mind that without any lamb, the flavour will not be nearly as strong.
****I like Campbell’s Cream of Cremini & Shiitake Mushroom, but any cream of mushroom soup will do. If you are averse to the texture of mushrooms in your food, run the cream of mushroom soup and water through a blender until smooth before adding them to the meat.