Biking around the hood in the rain

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It’s so nice to have full on spring and biking weather once again. The girls and I took the long way home a couple of times this week, braving the intermittent storms in our shiny raincoats and bike helmets. One of our favourite places to go is the Fascieux Creek along the side of the college property. There are at least four sets of mama ducks and ducklings in just a small area, so it’s awesome for birding and watching duckling antics.

Gardening in Pyjamas: veggies and baseball

Every family has their weird habits. I didn’t know my girls had picked this one up from me until today… Gardening in pyjamas.

That’s right, too often in the morning the crows sitting on the wire above our backyard are privy to me weeding and planting in my pjs. I find gardening so relaxing, and it’s a great way to start the day.

This evening after a nice ratatouille dinner on the deck, the girls helped me plant the tomatoes (that I grew from the seeds I saved from last year – booyah!) and weeded a bunch as well. After a while, they moved onto other things. They started hauling out the balls and bats from the wardrobe on the deck, and soon an entirely different game from baseball was being played in the backyard.

You can see some of the other veggies I am actually harvesting right now. Leeks and parsnips we ate all winter… Hose are the last of them. They are huge! So I left them out on the lawn to get rained on (er, cleaned,) tonight. Tomorrow, into the soup pot or a frittata. Who doesn’t love leek frittata?

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NGO Visit: Hope for Children in Ethiopia

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Last month in Ethiopia, Tawnya and I (Arnica) had the opportunity to visit several other NGOs (non-governmental organizations, non-profits.) We learned how they ran their programs, shared tips and tricks with each other, and scoped out new potential partners for the future.

The first organization we will tell you about is Hope for Children in Ethiopia.

Hope for Children is a fairly large, indigenous Ethiopia NGO. It started as a service for street children, but has expanded dramatically in the last fifteen years. READ MORE… MORE PICS!

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Preparing a “Dist” – an Ethiopia casserole

Many people return from Ethiopia with various pottery casseroles and coffee pots, and then have no idea how to get them ready for use. Or worse, they just throw some food in them and wonder why the unsealed dishes make their food taste like dusty pottery.

Well, the preparation of a jebuna, an Ethiopian coffee pot, is another post altogether. But this post I’ll share how to prepare a casserole dish, or dist, for cooking.

With that big intro, it’s actually super simple. I was getting all serious so you would think I’m the bearer of great wisdom. But really, you are basically doing the same thing as tempering a cast iron pan. Heat, oil, heat, oil. Those are the basics, and you do the same to keep it in good condition over the years. Of course a cast iron pan will last a lot longer (mine is my Grandpa’s baching pan from the 1930s!) but you should get quite a few years out of a traditional pottery dist.

Start by warming it up in the oven. 350 will do. Then take it gingerly out, and wipe down the inside with fat or oil. Traditionally, it would be raw sheep or beef fat. Never, ever, would an Ethiopia use pork fat. Of course, that’s exactly what I used for my first dist. I just rubbed down the inside of the dist with bacon fat until it wouldn’t absorb any more. This bigger dist I picked up in Ethiopia a few weeks ago, I decided to go the veggie route, and used just canola oil. Note that a low smoke-point oil like olive oil would be a bad choice. You want a neutral oil that can get hot hot hot without smoking. Also, only temper the inside of the pot (and don’t forget to do the lid!)

When it won’t absorb any more oil, then put it back into the oven for some more baking. I usually bake shiro at 400 degrees, so I make sure that my dist is fired at that temperature. You don’t have to leave it in long… Just five to ten minutes will do. Remove, wipe more oil or fat all over the inside, and then put in the oven for another go.

Usually I do this about four times. If it stinks a bit of earthenware, then I’ll do it a few more times and heat out the nasties.

Hope that helps you prepare your dist! Then remember, when you wash it, never soak it in water. Just wash it out then dry the inside right away. You can add a little oil on the inside to store.

When I make shiro, I also always roll around a tablespoon of oil or two around the dist before I put the shiro in for baking.

Enjoy!

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Oil it up with canola oil, or animal fat.
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Don’t forget to rub it all over the sides… You don’t want them to stick either.
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Warm it up in between oil-downs.
And now for a short break to make some shiro.
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I put a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom before I add the cooked paste. Of course, never put your pottery on a hot stove… This is a cold burner.
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and after ten minutes in a hot oven…
Bubbly-licious! That’s some ice looking shiro!
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