Monday, December 31, 2012

Seafood Lasagna with a Veggie Twist

This is a new take on the Mushroom and Crab Casserole that Marg, my good friend in Powell River, makes.  Wayne and I are working on getting healthier and trying to lose some weight. This recipe replaces some of the pasta with a very versatile vegetable, spaghetti squash.

SEAFOOD SPAGHETTI SQUASH LASAGNA

1 spaghetti squash

Seafood Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion chopped
1/2 red sweet pepper chopped
1/2 bell pepper diced
2 stalks celery with leaves diced
2 cups white mushrooms sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon chicken bullion crystals
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
sprinkle of ground pepper
sprinkle of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dill
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons spreadable cream cheese
2 cups imitation crab (or the real deal)
2 cups medium shrimp whole

Filling:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Pasta:
4 lasagna noodles
2 quarts boiling water
1 tablespoon oil (optional)
1 teaspoons salt

Topping:
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese grated
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Place upside down in 1/2 inch of water is a large baking dish.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender. Remove and cool. Shred the squash until it looks like spaghetti (hence the name).

Saute onion, garlic, peppers, celery, and mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan until tender and the liquid is evaporated. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, basil, and dill to release flavours. Add wine. Simmer about 1 minute more until liquid is almost evaporated. Measure flour into small bowl. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Add to vegetable mixture, stirring constantly until boiling and thickened. Stir in cream cheese until melted.

Cook pasta in boiling water, oil, and salt in a large uncovered pot until pliable. Leave pasta slightly firm. Drain. Prepare a large baking dish with cooking spray. Put enough of the sauce mixture to cover the bottom of the dish. Lay the lasagna noodles on top, overlaping the edges.

Add shrimp and crab to the remaining sauce mixture.  Put about one third on top of the lasagna noodles. Mix ricotta and Parmesan cheese with garlic powder and basil. Spread over the top of seafood sauce mixture. Then make a layer of the shredded spaghetti squash.

Put a small portion of the seafood sauce on top of the squash and mix it in to moisten and flavour it.

Top with the remaining seafood sauce.  Cover and bake at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until hot and bubbling. Add the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top and return to the oven uncovered.

Bake until the cheese melts and gets golden brown.

Okay, I know the seafood sauce and cheese aren't low calorie, but at least the spaghetti squash allows us to eat a normal portion with a little less guilt.  Have you altered any recipes to make them healthier?  I'd love to hear about them. -- Margy

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day is Done

When we are in Powell River, we love to be at our cabin, but sometimes we have to go to town to get some business done. Coming home to a view like this does have its compensations.


The sun is pretty far south this time of year, but it makes a warm glow as it dips behind Vancouver Island to the west. This is one reason they call this the Sunshine Coast. Think of us next time you are planning a trip. The scenery is beautiful, the people welcoming, and the possibilities for fun endless. You can obtain more travel information at www.DiscoverPowellRiver.com or check out www.PowellRiverBooks.com. -- Margy

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hole in the Wall on the Travel Channel

Our float cabin in Hole in the Wall on Powell Lake hosted a Travel Channel film crew last Spring. Now we've been included in their new Extreme Houseboats series on TV.  It will be rebroadcast on December 24.  Times here in the Pacific Northwest start at 7:00 a.m. (HD) and 10:00 a.m. (digital). Four segments will be aired. I am guessing our cabin will be in the third. Check your local listing for times in your area.

I also found these trailers on the Travel Channel website.  Click the arrow to see a tour of our cabin.



The second includes a segment about our new composting toilet.



Unfortunately, it won't be shown in Canada at this time. We'll have to keep checking.

This is a great opportunity for people to see what wonderful places Powell River and Powell Lake are to live and vacation. Thank you Nina, our Powderhouse Productions producer, and the Travel Channel. -- Margy

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Coastal BC Birds: Snow Geese

 Snow Geese

Where once I saw a kite buggy dance in Garry Point Park in Steveston, BC, now a pond has appeared. And not just any pond, a landing pad and home for lots of Snow Geese looking for a place to get out of the harsh winter weather up north.
In the golden glow of sunset, it looks like they picked the perfect spot.  Some of these geese look like the dark morph variety.

Bet they had a rude awakening the next morning with about 10 centimetres of snow on the ground. Who knows, they just might take flight and continue south to the Skagit Valley in search of a "warmer" winter home. -- Margy

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sunset in Steveston

This week I took a mini-vacation to one of my favourite places, Steveston, BC.  It is a historic fishing village turned into a great getaway, film location (Once Upon a Time and the upcoming Psycho prequel to name a few), place to live, and a fishing village.


Nearby Garry Point Park is a great place for walking, picture taking, and boat watching at the mouth of the mighty Fraser River.

It's also a great place to see spectacular sunsets. -- Margy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Margy Meanders: Kale Chips with Parmesan Cheese

Kale Chips with Parmesan Cheese

This popular recipe has been moved to the Margy Meanders blog. Please click here. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Coastal BC Plants: Mushrooms

 Mushrooms

This time of year, mushrooms are big business in Powell River.  Locals and visitors alike comb the forest floors for edible shrooms such as Pine Mushrooms, Chanterelles, and more. Mushroom buyers pop up in town almost as quick as the shrooms themselves.

Up at the cabin we don't see many of the edible versions, but we do have our own fungal displays just the same.  Here's a cluster sprouting from the edge of our on-shore shed.
All the moist weather makes even the wood foundation a healthy growing spot.  I think these are called Mycena fusco-occula.  If you are a shroom expert, maybe you can help out with the identification. Even if they were edible, they don't look substantial enough to bother with. -- Margy

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The Hulks" by John Campbell

They say, "Necessity is the mother of invention."  When the paper mill was founded at the mouth of the Powell River, there was no protected harbour or anchorage. Over the years, a variety of methods were tried to protect the logs and barges needed in the paper making and distribution process.

After World War II, the current solution was implemented.  A series of retired concrete ships and barges were brought in and anchored off shore in a protective arc around the mill.  These ships are lovingly called The Hulks.


Each ship is anchored in place with enough draft and height to break the wind and waves during heavy storms.


You can read more about this unique breakwater in The Hulks: The Breakwater Ships of Powell River by John Campbell available through the Powell River Historical Museum. -- Margy

Friday, December 14, 2012

O' Dawn Thirty

One thing about dawn coming later, I get to see one once in a while.
 
One recent morning was very pretty.

Red sky in the morning ... well, this time of year either one storm is moving in, or one is moving out. But at least the skies in between are spectacular. -- Margy

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What's in a Name? The Tin Boat

Up at the cabin we have a very important boat. She doesn't have a fancy name.  She just goes by, "The Tin Boat." But without her, our chores around the float wouldn't be as easy.


She's 14 feet in length with a bright red upper hull.  Our good friend John found her for us used, and we've used her a lot more since. She came with a run-out motor, so we purchased a new Honda 15-hp outboard. It's about the maximum she can handle.  Even so, we had to beef up her transom to handle the extra weight and power.

Here Wayne's working on one of our cliffside anchor cables. When you live on the water, you need lots of boats for lots of reasons. -- Margy

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cable Up

Living on the water, we have to anchor ourselves to shore in some way.  The choices are heavy ropes or steel cables.  When John designed our cabin, he chose cables.  Steel is strong, but over time (when mixed with water) it rusts.  During storms with heavy winds, sometimes the cables are stressed to the point they break.  That has happened to us several times. Fortunately, not all at once.

The first time for me, I was alone at the cabin for the very first time (read the story of Frontier Jane here). The second time, John invented a tire shock absorber system with steel belted tires.  Those tires and cables have been in place since 2007, but last week one of them snapped at the cabin end, sending the entire system straight down into the lake.  Our remaining three anchor points held us almost in place until the storm subsided.

Here's a video of our John-built tire shock absorber system in action.



Here's what it looks like with a temporary way-too-thin rope holding the corner of our cabin in place. It should hold us until we can get the necessary cable and tires, and reinstall the system.  Even with the buoyancy provided by the water, steel cables are extremely heavy to work with.

The next day Wayne and I had to return to the States. John came up by himself with the materials needed for the repairs.  Here is what it looks like now.  John was able to man handle the heavy tires out of the water and attach the new cable going to the cabin float.

The tires were still in good condition, so he didn't have to change those. He chose a new anchor point that would keep the steel cable from rubbing  so much on the log.

 John always amazes me. He can do so many things alone that be near impossible for two. He truly is a Jack-of-All-Trades. -- Margy

Monday, December 10, 2012

Woodstove Cooking: Sauteed Kale "A Hot Mess"

Sometimes you think you invented something, only to find it elsewhere a short time later.  That's what happened with the kale dish I made on top of my cabin wood stove. My winter greens are producing well, so I though I would experiment a bit.

Sauteed Kale
Also Known as "A Hot Mess"

5 cups fresh kale
1/4 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
salt and pepper to taste   
1/4 cup walnuts


Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add crushed thyme leaves to release flavours. Tear kale leaves and add them a few at a time to the pan to wilt.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and water to help with the wilting process.  Add walnuts broken into pieces.  Cook uncovered until the kale is firm, but tender.

 This simple dish can be either a side dish, or a main course, depending on your mood.  Stay tuned tomorrow to find out about the newest pub in Powell River, BC.  They have a small, but interesting menu, including a small entree they call "A Hot Mess." -- Margy

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fly by Night

I do a lot of travelling by Pacific Coastal Airlines between Vancouver International's South Terminal to my home town of Powell River. I love it! I can be home in three hours including my drive from Bellingham to YVR, a short wait after check in, and a 30 minute flight.  Not bad when you consider the driving and ferry alternative of seven to eight hours.

I usually fly up early in the day so that I can get up the lake by boat to our float cabin home during daylight.  This trip didn't work out that way.

This time of year, the 4:30 pm flight is on the ragged edge of night, especially on a cloudy, rainy evening.  No matter, I still got to my destination quick and easy. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Wood Storage Shelf Construction

Wayne and I were raised as cityfolk, so living off the grid was new to us. Of course, we had our good friend John as a mentor, but we learned a few things on our own. The first winter we had a terrible time with wet wood. We brought firewood into the cabin to dry before burning, but there was no place to store it. 

I sketched a plan and had the lumber yard in town cut all of the pieces to size before I took them to our cabin by boat. The major component is 2X4s. My first learning experience was that they aren't really that size. Processing reduces them to 1.5X3.5. Here's a link with more information. Fortunately, the different dimensions didn't ruin my plan and everything still went together fine.

First I painted the pieces with two coats before assembly. That way all I needed to do was put on a final coat to cover nail holes after completion. Because it was raining, I did most of the construction and all of the painting inside our kitchen.

The shelf is now out of the way (but still handy) in the corner of our guest room. The top shelf gives me much needed storage space. During winter, the shelf can hold about 3-5 days of wood for our Kozi woodburning stove. We rotate the wood every few days with the dry wood going to the right and damp wood from outdoors on the left. With both our outdoor wood storage float and our indoor wood storage shelf, we rarely get caught with wet wood anymore. What a relief!

Here are my plans. Click  them for a larger view with details about how to build a wood storage shelf of your own.

If you have any questions, leave a comment. For more information about our cabin experiences you can visit www.PowellRiverBooks.com, or check out Wayne's newest book, Off the Grid. -- Margy

Monday, December 03, 2012

Margy's Multigrain Muffins

I'm not a big breakfast person (unless we go out), and that isn't healthy (either way).  Now I'm trying to do better, and have at least a muffin each morning.  I researched bran muffins online, and come up with my own multigrain version.


Margy's Multigrain Muffins

2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 orange zested and juiced

Lightly beat eggs.  Add brown sugar and blend.  Add milk, oil, molasses, vanilla, orange juice and zest.

1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flax
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix dry ingredients and blend into wet ingredients.

1 apple with skin, grated
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Stir in grated apple, soaked cranberries, and chopped pecans to the muffin mix.

Coat muffin pans with cooking spray. Fill 3/4 full for expansion.  Bake f20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until lightly brown.  Remove from pans while still warm with knife. Makes 21 medium muffins.  Freeze extras.  Warm in a toaster oven for an easy breakfast.

What are some of your favourite easy breakfast foods? -- Margy

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hazy Reflections

Each season has its own beauty. The cold days of fall often bring fog to the surface of the lakes in our region.

Quads allow us to use a network of logging roads to get into our back country. Many days you can be all alone to enjoy the solitude.

These pictures of Nanton Lake almost look black and white, but it's just the hazy lighting that makes them look that way. -- Margy

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fly the Friendly Skies

The waves of storms we've been having are interspersed with sunny breaks. Last week when I took Wayne to Vancouver International Airport, a beautiful rainbow emerged from the darkness.

From the ground, it could be seen from horizon to horizon, much wider than my lens could capture.

I wonder what it looked like for the passengers of this jet? -- Margy

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ever Green

Evergreens get their name because the remain green throughout the year.  When deciduous trees like alders and maples lose their leaves each fall, the evergreens continue to give our hills and mountains a nice green glow.  Around our Powell Lake home, the evergreens include fir, hemlock, cedar, and some pine.


With a little sunshine, the distinctive colour of each variety comes out.

The forest is a prolific entity.  When trees are cut for roads or logging, seeds rapidly sprout to take back the clearings. In less than a year, alders begin to grow. Evergreens follow shortly thereafter.  Roads are soon obliterated.  But a little use and trimming keeps abandoned logging roads open for quads and hikers.

On a quad ride, we saved some seedlings from the road bed. Now our planters have evergreens we can enjoy year round.  On the left is a cedar, and on the right a two-fer, fir and hemlock.

When they get larger, we'll transplant them on our granite cliff to join our natural evergreen forest. -- Margy