Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coastal Adventures

Last week the Biology Department at Dalhousie University hosted a conference for the Association of Biology Laboratory Educators (ABLE). We had 3 days of workshops (Wed - Fri). The workshops are for teachers to showcase exactly what they do with students for a particular topic. The participants do exactly what the students would do in the laboratory, then we have time to ask questions, discuss the logistics details and of course go over the assignment and student evaluation. I gave the Forest Ecology workshop which is the field trip to Point Pleasant Park that I do every Fall with my class that I posted about here. We had 20 "students" in each of the morning and afternoon sessions of the workshop and everyone had a blast rummaging around the forest plots. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos. I did have my camera but got sidetracked identifying plants and chatting about the exercise.
Saturday was excursion day for the conference participants and I was fortunate enough to lead the Peggy's Cove and Sea Kayaking trip. There were 39 people on our little excursion and our first stop was a hike to Polly Cove (pictured above). We had 1.5 hours to explore the coastal barrens, named so because of the obvious lack of trees due to the very harsh winter conditions and very shallow acidic soil. I obsessed about the carnivorous pitcher plants before and I will do it again here...but only a little. They bloom for a few months and at this time of year the flowers are fresh and colourful.
Here is a field of them!
We also saw another carnivorous plant called Sun Dew. The do look like little suns with dew on them! See the red "flames" ringing the yellow centre? Click on the photo, you will see them better.
They are like a little (the size of your fingernail) Venus fly trap with what looks like water droplets on the tip of each hair. The droplets are actually sticky and and trap any unsuspecting insect the scurries over or lands on them. I would have never know about these if it hadn't been for some botanists in our group! I love hiking with Biologists! :)
We also saw two species of tiny pink orchids. This one is called Grass Pink (it's leaves are grass like) or Calopogon tuberosus. The other was the Dragon's Mouth Arethusa bulbosa. They are both bog orchids and are quite small, maybe the size of a loonie (our 1 dollar coin for you non Canadians).
Image from
We actually have 39 orchid species in Nova Scotia. I just planted the Pink Lady Slipper or Moccasin Flower in our backyard a month ago! I hope the 3 of them will survive and thrive!
Image from Vickie Emms at

After we headed into Peggy's Cove. Don't get me wrong, this place is beautiful but it is now crawling with tourists. I much prefer the quaintness of it 10 years ago when I first arrived.
You know you are with a group of Biologists when...I asked the group what they would prefer, shopping in the quaint stores and art gallery OR checking out the algae and tidepools. There was a unanimous roar of "ALGAE" from the group. So we only spent an hour here checking out the lighthouse and eating lunch...the bathrooms were really popular! :)
My favorite view of Peggy's Cove...Its intertidal zone, which is where we went next. We spent 1.5 hours splashing around the tidepools along a nice long stretch of intertidal (not pictured above) before heading off to do some sea kayaking.
The weather had been overcast but warm until we arrived to our kayaks. The the wind picked up and the temperature dropped about 5 degrees. It was hard paddling against the wind and waves. We were battling whitecaps at some points! Another participant and I got to help out in a rescue! One fellow capsized and we aided the guides to try to get him back to shore. It was an adventure! He was cold and lost his glasses but unhurt. It will make a great story! :)

All in all we had a great day and the conference was a success! Now I have to get back to focusing on my thesis. I have 1/2 of Chapter 3 submitted for approval and comments and Chapter 2 is taking shape!

Have a great Wednesday!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Strawberry Mania and the BEST Strawberry Pie EVER!

It is strawberry season in Nova Scotia, so the stores (and farmers market) are filled with delicious local berries.
Even my little plants have produced 4 berries for Diego and I to enjoy!
So what did I do with this bounty of berries? Well of course I bought 8 pints to make pies and jams!! :)
I also went a little CRAZY with the rhubarb...I mean really what better combination in a pie or jam? or on their own in muffins or a cake? Let's just say I was a little busy on Monday evening...
I made a batch of delicious rhubarb muffins using this recipe that I posted last year...YUM! I also made some strawberry-rhubarb jam which turned out really dark but is very tasty...especially as a natural sweetener for my homemade yogurt...or an ice cream...or on buttery toast...or anywhere you might want to use jam!!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

4 cups of rhubarb, cut in small pieces
8 c. sugar
8 cups of strawberries, washed and hulled

Sprinkle pieces of rhubarb with sugar, let set 12 hours. Bring to a boil, add strawberries. Boil until thick, and seal in sterilized jars. Place filled jars in water and boil for 10 minutes for long term storage.
I also discovered a recipe for fresh strawberry pie in my cookbook entitled Cook Great Food by the Dietitians of Canada. There are a number of really good recipes but this one by far takes the cake...or pie to be exact. I have already made it twice (and we ate it all without sharing... shameful I know). This is THE BEST PIE EVER! Go right now and make it, you wont be disappointed!
The recipe calls for a pre-prepared graham cracker crust. I did not have one on hand so instead I made a shortbread and vanilla cookie crust using a recipe in the same book for a gingersnap crust for a pumpkin cheesecake (I am thinking Thanksgiving for this recipe!).


1.5 cups of cookie/cracker crumbs of your choice
1/3 cup of melted butter
3 tbsp of brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients and press on the bottom and sides of the plate. Refrigerate.

The filling

5 cups of washed and hulled strawberries
1/3 cup of cold water
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
4 tsp of cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp of cold water

Puree or mash 1 cup of the strawberries, you should have about 3/4 cup of puree. Here instead of using a potato masher or pastry cutter to puree the berries, you can combine them with the water and sugar in the blender. If you haven't already, combine the puree with the water and sugar and blend well. Place the mixture in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the cornstach mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened (~1 min). Remove from heat. While the sauce is cooling place the remaining berries stem down on the crust. I used whole berries for the bottom layer, then cut the rest in half to line the sides of the plate and fill in the holes between the whole berries. Pour the sauce evenly over the berries and chill until the sauce/glaze is set (~3 h). To make it easier to cut and remove from the plate, take the pie our of the fridge ~ 20 min before you are going to eat it. Top with whipped cream and your taste buds will melt!
I still have lots of berries (and rhubarb) left for strawberry jam and strawberry-rhubarb pie. I made lots of pie crusts now I will fill them and freeze them! I also have plans to buy more berries to freeze whole for some mid winter snacks and maybe another of these pies! Don't wait to make this one...only you may not want to tell anyone about it because you will HAVE to share! :) ENJOY!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Today is Father's Day and unfortunately, my Dad is in Ontario. Although, I cannot celebrate with him in person and I was a slacker at getting his gift sent (:s)... I will spend the day doing things that we would do together (clean the car and have a beer), that he would want me to do (clean the car... and work on my thesis) and that I would do for him (make jam!).
Speaking of jam... Here is you gift Dad! Homemade spicy ginger-rhubard jam that is delicious on ice cream (and anything else you want to put it on)!! I will send it out next week. :)

Gingered Rhubarb Jam (slightly modified from this recipe)


  • 4 cups diced fresh rhubarb
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine rhubarb, sugar, ginger, and lemon juice in a large saucepan and let stand until sugar is moistened by juices (~20 min). Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until thick and clear (~15 min). Ladle into hot sterilized canning jars and seal immediately and use within 3 weeks. However, if you want to keep it longer term then process the sealed jars in a boiling water bath for about 10 mins.

To make the jam, I needed candied I made my own and it really is quite simple.
I used this recipe which I won't reproduce because his instructions are great and photos are beautiful!

Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's out there!

Monday, June 7, 2010


We had some friends over on Saturday night and they taught us how to play cribbage!
So we finally put our Christmas Gift from our downstairs neighbours to good use! Isn't our little cribbage dory gorgeous? We had a blast breaking in the dory...probably had nothing to do with this... ;)
I enjoyed the Maple bubbly but I think the jury is still out for everyone else who enjoyed a glass (or 2)! It sure took the edge off the bumps and bruises from my first fall off my scooter on Friday. Yes, I am a fearless scooter rider...which means I travel at high speeds and the pothole ridden sidewalks in Halifax are no longer my friend... :( I promised (17 times) Diego to be more careful while riding. Lucky for me I was wearing my helmet and nothing was broken (other than my pride that is...). Unfortunately, we don't have photos or a video because I am sure it would have been hilarious (especially since I wasn't seriously injured!). After a few days of calm, my shoulder is feeling much better and I will be back in yoga class on Wednesday! Thank goodness because I have been eating all the (DELICIOUS) brownies I made for Saturday's game night! :) (The tupperware was full 2 days ago...)

Batter (~24 brownies)
4 squares (113 g) of unsweetened (or very dark) chocolate
3/4 cup of butter
2 cups of sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
1 cup of flour
1 cup of coarsely chopped toasted pecans (optional)

4 squares (113 g) of semisweet chocolate
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp water

Lightly grease a 13x9" baking pan. Melt chocolate and butter in a large bowl in a double boiler (or microwave chocolate and butter on medium for 2 minutes). Stir in sugar until well blended. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour and nuts and spread in the pan. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 25-35 minutes (mine only takes 25 but it depends on your oven). Check them after 25 mins with a knife, if it comes out clean they are ready! Make sure you don't over bake them. For the icing, melt the chocolate and butter together (microwave or double boiler). Then blend in the water until smooth. Spread over cooled brownies and ENJOY! :)

Best when shared! :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My First Harvest

As I was wandering around the garden last week I came across some radishes. Funny I though since I didn't plant any but I did remember some of them bolting and going to seed. I didn't actually get any radishes last year and with my disappointment I didn't want to plant any more this year. With a little research (which I should have done BEFORE planting...) I discovered my mistake...I planted them in a spot that is too hot...which makes them bold and flower. So imagine my surprise when I came across this beauty last week!
Diego and I shared it over lunch on our deck. It was the only one and it was delicious. A very subtle taste. Sadly the remaining plants in the garden are getting huge but no swelling at the roots.
The seeds are starting to sprout in my new veggie garden, the planters are filled and it looks like it will be gorgeous out today so I will make the rounds with my camera! My herb garden is very happy. My chives are now in full bloom and I also have 2 types of parsely, sage (which is also about to flower!), lemon and coconut thyme, rosemary and spearmint.
Great for mojitos, sun brewed iced tea, brownies...I love mint, so I put it in everything I can. Diego rolls his eyes at my obsession sometimes...
Have a great Saturday!