Sunday, November 28, 2010

Festive Shortbread

Our nine year old made these biscuits recently for the Game of Life  at school. They were so yummy, I just had to make another batch solely for our own consumption! A nice shortbread that is quick to prepare and would make a sweet gift wrapped up with a pretty ribbon.....

300g plain flour
50g rice flour
200g butter (cold!), cut into smallish cubes
100g caster sugar

Preheat oven to 170c. Line two baking trays with baking parchment paper. Place the flours and sugar into a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse again at intervals to incorporate into the flour. If needed, add a thin drizzle of water to bring the mixture together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Remove dough and pat gently into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until about 0.5cm thick. Cut out with your favourite shaped cutters and place on the baking tray, spaced evenly apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Best enjoyed with a cup of steaming hot drink.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A springtime surprise!

Remember our duck who was sitting on some eggs?  Well, she surprised us all last night when we noticed her eggs had hatched! It serves me right for saying she was a such a lousy sitter! There are 5 of THE MOST cutest ducklings I've ever seen... with tiny little orange beaks and black eyes and all of that uncoordination that goes along with ducklings...from getting rolled out of the nest and flapping uncontrollably to find a way back in, to trying in vain to snap at a passing fly and scurrying after the family, when one has realised it has been left behind on the grass in a daydream.

So cute! they all are marching back to the nest after mamma............

Did I mention they are SO cute??!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

At my place....

At my place, I have been pulling up garlic! It had all flopped over and the leaves starting to yellow - I wanted to leave them for a while longer but having all flopped over, I figured they wouldn't be doing much more growing, so excavated around a couple - saw they had formed cloves and started pulling them up.....

This basket is from one small bed. There is one more bed to be harvested....

At my place we have a super sturdy pair of  Fig Jam & Lime Cordial oven gloves from the very thoughtful Celia.

They have already been christened and I'm looking forward to doing much more baking with them...

My vintage fabric squares also arrived from the Down to Earth swap, put together by the very organised Sue.

 I'm really happy with the selection which will go wonderfully with some of my own fabrics. There are even a couple of Holly Hobby prints hiding in amongst there!

I'm really itching to get the squares sewn together to make a picnic blanky, especially since we are off to the beach soon and I think it would be great to picnic with on the sand! :)

At my place, there is a bale of barley straw in our dam. This will apparently keep the algae under control during the warmer months.....

Fingers crossed!

There is also an environmentally friendly toothbrush from dear Brydie  and her giveaway.....

....what a classy little number! Thanks, Brydie!

Lastly, at my place, the sage is in flower which the bees absolutely adore.....

......and so do I!

What's going on at your place?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Meal Tree

For mothers of newborns, the dinner hour(s!) can be a demanding time. I know from my own experiences, trying to deal with a fussy baby while attemping to fix a meal at the same time was often a physical impossibility. By the time the second and third child came along, I was getting wiser. I would stock the freezer a few weeks before the birth with several easy meals for those nights when making dinner just wasn't happening. Was. Not. Happening! What I remember about those times with most joy though, was when a girlfriend came to visit, with an offering of a meal in her arms. Already cooked! Ready to go. Or freeze for later if we so wished! What bliss. That delicious meal lasted us for two nights and is still one of the few dinners I remember while the third one was still so little.

To help out a new mum in this way is a wonderful thing. If several people team up to help her, what was originally one stand-alone dinner for a tired mamma suddenly becomes a Meal Tree, lasting as long as there are happy participants. If there are many, they can each take one turn, just one - their gift to the new family, and with teamwork, this glorious gift can go on for several weeks, depending on how often the deliveries to the new mum are to be made (weekly, twice weekly..). What I wouldn't have given for such a gift in those early weeks!  (a slight oxymoron?).

I am delighted to be part of such a meal tree and hope my gift is well received.

What fun it is to give a gift that I know from my own experience was appreciated and remembered fondly.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Comfrey Tea

...not for us but for our plants! According to my gardening books, it is a wonderful liquid feed for plants, particularly those in pots who's roots are restricted and cannot find nutrients on their own.

Comfrey's nitrogen content is particularly high, making it a good substitute for animal manures in compost systems. The leaves are also a good activator in stagnant compost bins due to their super speedy ability to rot down. Having comfrey in the garden growing alongside other plants also brings in other benefits such as their ability to draw up nutrients from below the root zone of most other plants.  I have also read that it aids the healing of bruising, if a few leaves are applied to the site of the wound as a poultice. It is also super hardy  - I thought I had killed my little plant but as soon as the weather warmed up it started shooting out from every which way! It was time to make some tea.......

I had picked up a barrel from my last tip visit a couple of weeks ago and thought it would be great to contain some of this liquid brew. It was just a simple matter of plucking off the leaves (which are quite prickly), and plunging them into a vessel of water and leaving them be for 4-5 weeks. This is my first time making comfrey tea and I am really curious about the rotting down process. Apparently the leaves break down quickly, producing a foul smelling black tea that is a nutritious food for plants when diluted down with water until the colour of straw. I have tried my hand at a similar type of liquid feed using seaweed (which worked great!), but it's the stench I'm interested cannot smell from a book!

By the time it is ready for use, in about a months time, hopefully my tomatoes will be well on their way with needing some extra nudging...and coincedently, a lot of them are in pots this year, too! Will follow up with another post when and if a black soup appears.........

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rainy Weekend






Thursday, November 11, 2010

Garden Fresh Nori Rolls

With the weather warming up, we've been finding ourselves eating lighter meals. It's actually a very refreshing change to the heavy winter meals and (thigh-loving!) hot desserts. Sushi rolls have made a comeback in our kitchen, having been absent for quite some time. They're so easy to bring together and are surprisingly filling. If the rice has been cooked mid-afternoon, there will be enough time to allow it to cool, make the rolls and then refrigerate them in time for an early evening dinner...preferably outside soaking up the beautiful residual warmth of the day!

The nori roll - an easy, healthy meal
The most enjoyable part of making them is foraging in the garden for bits and pieces to go in them! I had forgotten that all our capsicums had been used up in a pizza making session, so chose carrots from the garden to go in their place. I also picked some fresh, self-sown lettuce and was thinking about some calendula petals but completely forgot about them as I strolled through the garden (so easy to do!), so will have to remember them for next time.

The capsicum substitute - young, sweet and crisp!

Sushi Rolls (makes 5-6 logs or 30-36 pieces)
500g short grain rice, cooked and cooled
1 tbs sushi vinegar
selection of fillings: smoked salmon, tuna, thinly sliced vegetables - lettuce, rocket, silverbeet (young), beetroot leaves, capsicum, grated carrot, cucumber, avocado etc.
nori (seaweed sheets)
wasabi, if you like it hot

Mix the sushi vinegar into the cooled, cooked rice. Onto a bamboo rolling mat, place the nori sheet shiny side down. Place a thin layer of the cooked rice over the sheet, wetting hands as needed to prevent the rice from sticking too much (it's really sticky!). Leave a space of about 1 inch at the top of the seaweed for sealing the roll later on.

Onto the rice layer, place filling ingredients in a horizontal line, being careful not to overload - this could make rolling it a little trickier. Less is more! Add the wasabi if you are so inclined. (I was so inclined).

Remember to leave a space at the top for sealing the roll!
Using the bamboo mat, carefully roll the nori and filling tightly together, being sure to press firmly on the leftover edge of nori at the top of the sheet to seal. If too much filling has been placed on, now is the time where it will be impossible to roll! Call this a practice one and remember to not be so heavy handed with the next one.

Once rolled, place the 'log' into a dish to await the arrival of the rest of the logs. When all the fillings have been turned into logs, cover them and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours to chill...

....and then slice into portions. Each log will yield six pieces. Wet the knife if it is sticking (although it shouldn't - at least not too much). 

The cooked rice always reminds me of jewels and the filling as the gems!
Serve as they are or with some dipping sauces, eg. soy or sweet chilli. Bask in the knowledge that they are just as healthy for you as they are tasty!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are a frequent visitor in our house. The 10 year old has taken them on board her baking repertoire and often the cupboards are bare of chocolate and condensed milk because she's been at it again...

...this time to help out the 9 year old for the "Game of Life" at school; a weekly interactive game at school where the kids team up, all have a different 'business' and have certain requirements to fill before the game ends (it goes on for several weeks!). They need to 'buy' a house and car, pay bills and still have enough money left over to spend on things like health care, pets and entertainment. The real estate people have it good - they bring in clippings from the newspaper and sell their 'houses' this way. The pet people have been known to bring in cuddly pets from home like rabbits/guinnea pigs and charge a fee per 'pat'.

The most lucrative business of all though would have to be the bakery. Due to it's past popularity, this year there are two. Wouldn't you know it, but the 9 year old decided she would like to be in one of them. I'll admit, it can be somewhat frustrating remembering that each Tuesday she needs to have a container of yummy goodies all packed up, ready to take with her to school but with a 10 year old on the case who loves being in the kitchen, the task no longer falls on my shoulders. Thank goodness for that!

Child's play

Chocolate Chip Cookies
250g butter
2/3 cup sugar
half a 400g can of condensed milk (this is one of the reasons why I think she likes to make them - to consume the leftovers of this sweet treat over the next few days!)
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
125g white chocolate, cut into small pieces
250g dark or milk chocolate, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 180c and line two baking trays with paper/parchment. In a large bowl, cream together the buter, sugar and condensed milk with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Add flour and chocolate pieces and mix together with a large metal spoon until well combined. Roll tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls and place onto prepared baking trays, leaving room for spreading. Flatten balls slightly with a fork. Bake 14-16 minutes or until light golden brown. Allow to cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Here are Kirsty's biscuits,

..and Linda's

(Have you tried them yet? You really must! Let me know in the comments section below and I'll link back to your blog here)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bread bags and more vintage sewing goodness...

I'm still here, just crazy busy around the garden at the moment! Sometimes it's a little frustrating not having  lot of time to post but it all balances out in the end, right? The pendulum is swinging towards the busy side but is sure to make it's way back again sometime soon.

In between tackling jobs in the garden (SO much to do! The grass in the chook run was thigh high!!), I've been making up some bread bags. Besides wanting  few more for home, I've decided to sew some up for gifts.

They really are so handy to have around, I use ours all the time and am lost when they are in the wash! I have taken to lining the insides with calico to add an  extra layer of thickness to keep as much air as possible out.

They're also simple to make which is just as well because with the amount of jobs I need to do outside, I couldn't concentrate for very long on a more elaborate project!

And after a disastrous visit to the tip shop last week that resulted in much car trouble for a whole afternoon (!) I was excited to find some pre-loved sewing patterns. At the TIP!! Who would've thought? I'm planning on making the A-line skirt pictured bottom right and have already picked up some fabric for it. It was nearly skirt weather today...nearly!

And after the retrieving of my old bed cover a couple of weeks ago, I was very excited when I spotted this:

Not that I could imagine using it anytime soon (anytime?), but what a coincedence! It couldn't just be left there to be tossed out now, could it?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

With no cherry on top- Black Cherry Aphid.

I was delighted yesterday when I caught a glimpse of our cherry tree from the bathroom window and saw what looked to be small fruit jumping out from within the leaves. I rushed out to investigate and was not disappointed:

Cherry - Stella
The tree is still very young, last year it gave us two cherries. Two! Much to my daughter's disgust when she heard how I consumed them upon discovery. They looked so delicious, I just couldn't resist!

This year I was so pleased to see several more than two, no big harvest by any means, but still enough for each person to taste!

But wait, what was this? A patchy black spot underneath one of the leaves? And then another? And then so many leaves I couldn't believe my good fortune had suddenly plummeted to a plague of monstrous proportions. An unidentified pest. Ugh!

Black Aphids

I felt so violated!!

And there were more of them....

.....and more............................................

Not knowing exactly what they were (the diagnosis didn't come until later that evening), I reached for the hose and sprayed them off. Every last one I could spot. I would love to know what my neighbour was thinking as he saw me hosing down my cherry tree in the rain (!) after we had just received 5 inches of rain over the weekend! Really, what a sight that must've been.

Aphids suck the sap out of the leaves of several plants and I am stumped as to why they chose my cherry. There is a perfectly attractive rose bush just around the corner, I would be more than happy if they took that on! I will continue to manually remove them as I find them, perhaps try a (homemade) soap spray and hope for the appearance of some ladybirds soon....

I really DO want to share those cherries this year! Honest!!
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