Friday, April 29, 2011

Zucchini Slice

This will most likely be the last zucchini slice for us until next summer. Our plants are all succombing to powdery mildew and we are only getting the odd one or two zukes. Most aussies would've come across this recipe somewhere along the way, it's one that finds it's way into school cookbooks and gets written on scraps of notepaper and stuffed into folders. This recipe came from my mum and I'm posting it for CJ who asked recently...just what IS this zucchini slice that we aussies seem to go on about...?

Tasty warm OR cold!
It's also super easy and quick to prepare - just 10-15 minutes putting the ingredients together and then into the oven it goes. Eat it warm or cold with a fresh garden salad on the side and some crusty bread for a complete meal. Oh, and pull out the pickles or relish if you have some in the cupboard......


Hot out of the oven

Zucchini Slice
375g (13 ounces?) zucchini - usually 3 of medium size, grated. I used one green and two yellow which caused the slice to be more of a yellow-ey colour than green, which I find more appealing for the young people
1 large onion, chopped (I used 3 good sized perennial leeks as we have so many at the moment!)
3 rashers bacon, chopped (can use pancetta if it's around)
1 carrot, grated
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup light flavoured vegetable oil
5 eggs

How:
In a bowl, mix together the zucchini, onion/leeks, bacon and cheese. Add the flour, stirring well. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and oil together and add to the zucchini/flour mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a greased oven proof dish, top with sliced tomatoes or chopped herbs if you're so inclined and bake in a moderate oven (180c/350f) for 30-40 minutes, until golden on top and slice is puffing up like a quiche. Enjoy :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hapa-zome

Hapa-zome - beating colour into cloth
This is the term that India Flint, author of Ecocolour, (which I have happily been consuming the past couple of weeks) has given to the age old method of beating colour into cloth.

 It is a simple exercise of obtaining fresh plant material and literally 'beating' the colour into the cloth with a small hammer or rubber mallet. With the young people home on school holidays, we just had to give it a try!

After rummaging through the wardrobes, we came up trumps with a 100% cotton, plain white t-shirt. This was pre-soaked overnight in a mordant of homemade yoghurt  and water to hopefully assist the adhering of the colours on the cotton.  The next day, the t-shirt was rinsed and dried and then the fun began...



Some fresh plant material was gathered from the garden..


...and with nothing more to it, 9yo got to work. What fun it is to bash plants onto a t-shirt!


And how noisy! We used a solid wooden chopping block to protect the table from the hammer, and a piece of paper over the more delicate flowers to prevent them from being reduced to a mushy pulp. The t-shirt was then allowed to dry and we have yet to iron it to set the colours. The longer the dye is left on before the first wash, the better the result. We have yet to wash the shirt, too!

The back - plants used: silverbeet/chard, parsely, comfrey, potato leaf, pink daisy, fern leaf, rosemary spikes, alyssum, geranium petals, beetroot leaf, kale, calendula

The front - there is a sort of order in amongst the chaos
The fleshy, sappy plants seemed to yield the most pleasing results.

Not having any more plain white t-shirts to play with, the young people soon decided it might be fun to try the same technique on paper instead...


Out came more chopping boards and hammers/meat mallets. The 'bashings' were made onto some handmade paper I found lurking in the cupboard and will make great additions to homemade cards.

I don't think we have seen the last of this top..I am tempted to embelish it in some way, perhaps with some crocheted ric-rac or beading.....

Oh, the possibilities!
For more information on this method of applying colour to cloth, I can't highly recommend enough the book; ECOCOLOUR by India Flint.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Little crocheted gift baskets

After 'tea with hazel' asked so nicely if i had a pattern to share for the crocheted baskets from my weekend post,  I rummaged in my basket and found the crumpled scrap of paper that my notes were written down on. They were kind of made up as I went, you see..!

A quick solution to gift containment
The baskets were made to put some homemade chocolates in for my brother's children and are the easiest thing in the world to whip up for anyone with basic crochet knowledge (this is me.beginner too..remember?!).

The baskets are worked all in one piece so there are no joining seams together afterwards, which I happen to detest! They are started by working in the round and then after the desired base size is reached, the sides are worked in dc (sc US readers) with no increases. The handle is simply a row of chain reaching from one side to the other and worked to the desired thickness in dc.

Change colours for different stripey effects otherwise work them up in a single colour and embelish later on with ribbon..etc.

So, here we go:

Little Crochet Baskets
size: just the right size for a child to carry (10cm diameter x 15cm side height, approx. 4"x"6")

ch= chain
slst=slip stitch
dc= double crochet **(single crochet for US readers)**
inc= increase (2dc in dc)

Requirements: 4mm crochet hook, assorted 8ply/dk weight yarn, wool needle, buttons (optional)

Working the base in a spiral

BASE:
(I worked in a spiral as a single colour was being used. If changing colour for 'rings', join beginning and end stitch with a slip stitch). Mark beginning stitch of each round with a safety pin to easily identify the end of the round.

Make 2 ch
1st round: 6dc in first ch
2nd round: inc in each dc to end (12dc)
3rd round: (1dc, inc) repeat 6 times (18dc)
4th round: (inc, 2dc) repeat 6 times (24dc)
5th round: (2dc, inc, dc) repeat 6 times (30dc)
6th round: (4dc, inc) repeat 6 times (36dc)
7th round: (2dc, inc, 3dc) repeat 6 times (42dc)
8th round: (6dc, inc) repeat 6 times (48dc)
9th round: (inc, dc to last dc, inc) (50dc)

SIDES:
(Working in rounds and joining with a slip stitch if changing colours, or in a spiral if working in single colour, marking beg and end of round with a a safety pin in first stitch)

With yarn still attached, chain 1.
1st round: dc in each dc around edge of circle.
2nd and subsequent rounds: repeat round 1 until desired height is achieved. I changed colour stripes after working two rows, finishing with three rows of a colour for the top band. (50dc and 15 rounds)


HANDLE:
With yarn still attached, ch 40 (or preferred number of chains to reach desired length of handle). Join on opposite side of basket with a slst. Turn and work back along ch in dc to other side. Join to basket side with a slst. Repeat this process until handle is desired thickness. (I worked one row of dc on each side of chain).
Fasten off and weave in ends.

FLOWER:
(English terms)

Make 2 ch.
Rnd 1: 6dc in 2nd chain from hook, sl st to 1st dc
Rnd 2: (1dc in next dc, 2 ch) 5 times, 2ch, sl st to 1st dc
Rnd 3: Change to main colour (if using), (1dc, 1htr, 3tr, 1htr, 1dc) in each 2-ch sp, sl st to 1st dc.

Fasten off. Sew in ends. Attach to basket and secure with yarn and wool needle. If you are super organised, a button in the centre of each flower would make a nice addition.

To be filled with any manner of goodies.

I hope you enjoy making these baskets for someone special as much as I did!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Weekend pics...

Oma's egg decorating table. Her activities never disappoint!

Picasso inspired?

The Rider

Oma's delicious fruit flan

Hand-dyed eggs..the light blue one on the right is Violet's - no dyeing required! She kindly lays them blue!

A pizza treat from the garden: potato, rosemary, garlic, bocconcini, olive oil and sea salt. LOTS of sea salt.

Egg hunting. In the soil?

Chocolates by the tweens.

A new discovery - crocheted gift baskets!

Hope you're having a fabulous long weekend!


**Editing to add pizza recipe for floweringmama **

Pizza base made using : 500g bread flour, 2 tsp dried yeast, 1 tsp salt, 1tsp sugar, splash of olive oil, 330mls approx water. Knead all ingredients together until smooth and springy adding more water or flour if required.  Cover with a towel and set aside to rise for 1 -1.5 hours in a warm place. These quantities will make 2 thick or 3 thin based medium pizzas.

For topping, thinly slice about 4-6 smallish clean new potatoes and place into a mixing bowl. Add 1-2 cloves of finely crushed garlic, finely chopped fresh rosemary (2 sprigs), generous splash of good olive oil and coarsly ground sea salt. Mix well to combine. Roll out pizza base and place on oiled tray or preheated baking stone. Add bocconcini (baby mozzarella balls) to base, followed by garlic/potato/herb mixture. Sprinkle with extra sea salt and drizzle with a little extra oil. Bake as desired. (180c for 30mins approx). Enjoy :)


**Crochet basket pattern is HERE **

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Crocheted Hen Egg Cosies

I came across the cutest pattern for some crocheted egg cosies recently. Having a growing supply of homespun and dyed yarn availabe, I was excited to make some up for the 'tweens'.  I think it's hilarious that after lifting the hen up, we get to see the egg she has 'laid'! It makes me chuckle every time...  

Three hens a-laying

Free pattern available Here.


Happy Easter if you celebrate. Happy Sunday otherwise!

Friday, April 22, 2011

One Brown Skein..a journey through a natural dye bath


Home dyed brown skein from gathered  plant materials
 I've been reading the most amazing book this past week. It's called "EcoColour" by India Flint.

It delves into how to use locally available plant materials to make natural dyes using alternative mordants to create a yarn/cloth that is environmentally friendly, agreeable on the skin, ethical and  sustainable.
There is a comprehensive plant list that details what species are recommended for obtaining different colours, applying colour directly onto cloth with flowers and leaves, plant material dye baths using scrap metals and dye vessels as mordants plus an enticing section on eucalypts, which I have not even begun to read yet!


What I was most excited to try first though was a plant based dye from materials found on our property. I had a quantity of homespun fleece to play with so off I went a'gathering...

Oak bark (twigs and acorn caps)
We are so lucky to have a gorgeous, huge old oak tree on our property. I discovered that this would provide a wonderful supply of bark for making brown dyes. I collected around 180g of assorted bark/twigs/acorn caps. These were soaked in a bucket of water for 2 days. The bark and water were then placed into a pot, covered and brought to a gentle simmer for around 1.5 hours and then left to cool in the pot overnight.

Homespun wool soaking in a vinegar/water solution overnight
To prepare the wool for dye takeup, it was soaked in a bucket of water with 1 cup of white vinegar added for around 12 hours. The next day I heaved out my mum's old crockpot that she had given me from the back of the cupboard and decided that it would make a perfect dye pot to be used for the sole purpose of dyeing in. No Food! Ever Again! Not to worry as we still have our regular slow cooker for feeding the family.

Designated slow cooker for dying yarn
The slow cooker is ancient and doesn't get up to the ridiculously hot temperatures that today's slow cookers seem to do. Even on high, it is a most gentle simmer. Yes, indeed, a very useful dye pot here, ready to be put to use.

On the day I had set aside to dye my yarn, the boiled bark/water solution was strained and placed into the slow cooker.

The colour of the oak bark dye before heating - like strong tea (or maybe even whiskey? Maybe? ;))
The yarn (100g), was squeezed out and added to the dye pot and the unit was switched on (high).

Vinegar soaked yarn entering the dye
After about 1 hour, I checked on the yarn to see how it was looking. It was quite caramel in colour. I was after something quite darker and remembered reading that iron 'saddens' colours, making them darker and duller. We have had an old iron horseshoe sitting outside on our windowsill since we moved in, so I decided to put it to use and placed it carefully in the bottom of the pot. I was positively beside myself with excitement waiting to see what would happen next!

The colour take-up after 2.5 hours

..and here, the colour after 5 hours.
Oh, yes, this was more like it. I didn't really know what to expect, but I had hoped for a darkish brown colour and as the yarn cooled down in the dye solution I was very pleased with the colour provided by the oak bark/iron combination. Kind of a greyish brown, a 'wolfy' brown, if you will.

After the yarn had cooled in the dye, it was removed and left to partially dry in an old colander. Not being able to wait any longer, I rinsed it in lukewarm water, gradually increasing the water temperature to 'set' the twist in the yarn.


The water ran clear! The dye had taken!

Hanging up to dry. Oh, the wait!

At last! My first plant dyed skein of yarn. What fun I will have playing with this. (100g approx)
The book has inspired me to try out several other plants we have growing here. I am definitely looking forward to giving the eucalyptus leaves a go which can offer a range of different colours and goodness knows we have more than enough of them to play with!

NB. As the dye solution still seemed to have plenty of colour left, another similar weighted skein was added (with a short pre-soak of 1 hour), and again 5 hours on the heat. It produced a nearly identical coloured yarn that is just the slightest, slightest shade lighter. The leftover dye liquid (still amazingly with colour in it), was placed into jars and labelled, ready for me to play with again another day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Building Huts & Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns

Do you remember making 'huts' or hideouts when you were young? Clubhouses? Cubbies, perhaps?


After a serious pruning session with the cyprus trees, imagine their delight when I let them have the prunings rather that toss them all to the goats (well...maybe the goats did get a little - just so I could watch them gallop down the hill!). Plenty of branches to go around though...


Plenty for some serious hutmaking!

Have you made hot cross buns this year? Perhaps you buy them instead?


My favourite recipe is from here  and is the splattered printout in my recipe folder. It's written out in a strange way though with the ingredients for different things not separated, so I'll jot them down here along with my modifications for future reference.

Hot Cross Buns
1 1/4 cups (310mls) milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
100g butter, melted
165g sugar
4 cups plain flour
4 tsp dried yeast
4-6 tsp mixed spice
1 cup (or more!) of good chocolate chips...or sultanas if you absolutely must.

Into a breadmaker, toss the wet ingredients, followed by the dry, excluding the chocolate chips (place these in the freezer so they are nice'n'cold later on). Set to dough cycle while you go off to do other things.

When the dough is ready, remove and place onto a floured benchtop. Flatten out gently and sprinkle the cold chocolate chips over surface. Fold up like a package and repeat with the remaining chocolate chips. Adding the chocolate in this way stops them from being kneaded to smithereens and then melting into the mixture while the dough is having it's first rise.
Divide dough into 16 equal portions and roll into balls. Place into a parchment lined square 23cm baking tin, fitting them snugly together. Cover and allow to rise for around 30 minutes or so. Preheat oven to 200c.

While the buns are rising, prepare the 'cross' paste:

1/3 cup plain flour
1 tbs sugar (I used pure icing sugar, to dissolve easier)
2 tbs cocoa

Place the paste ingredients into a cup and slowly add enough water to make a thick, spreadable paste. Place into a small piping bag.

Prepare the glaze now as well by placing:

1/3 cup sugar (again, I used pure icing sugar, to dissolve easier) and
2 tbs water

into a small pot and stirring over low heat until the sugar melts and forms a syrup. Place aside until buns are cooked.

Once the buns have risen, pipe horizontal and vertical lines over them with the chocolate paste to form the crosses.

Bake buns for 10 minutes then turn down oven to 180c for a further 20 minutes or so, until buns are firm on top, golden brown and popping out of the tin.

Heat glaze to a simmer and brush the hot glaze over the hot buns and allow to cool slightly before diving in. It's hard, I know, and as you can see, you really have to be quick with a camera in our house to get a picture.

Meh. Who needs sultanas?

Best eaten warm while the chocolate is still meltingly gooey.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Calendula Salve

After my recent satisfaction with making some homemade comfrey ointment (salve),  I took the advice of Lisa  and gave some homemade calendula salve a go.

Making it was very similar to the comfrey salve, although this time I empolyed the use of the slow cooker to infuse the petals and oil. I also tried a double infusion this time, which I had been wanting to give a try.

Homemade calendula salve, to aid in the healing of cuts, bites, stings, rashes and other minor skin irritations.

Calendula Salve
300ml olive oil (or other vegetable oil to your liking)
dried calendula flower heads (I used 2 generous handfuls)
30g beeswax, grated

As I had a ready supply of dried calendula petals grown in our garden over the summer, I opted to use them up.


Homegrown and dried calendula petals (Calendula Officinalis)
The oil and a generous handful of flower heads and petals were placed into the slow cooker on 'low' heat and left for around 4 hours. As the flower heads were thoroughly dried, there was no splattering in the pot caused by moisture, like there was with the comfrey ointment.

After four hours, the oil was sieved and returned to the pot with a fresh handful of dried flowers. This was left to infuse on 'low' for another four hours. As my slow cooker is really old (!), and doesn't get up to the hot temperatures that slow cookers of today seem to do, I was pretty confident that the oil would be safe in there and not overheat, ruining the infusion and possibly burning.

After the second infusion, the oil was again strained and the grated beeswax was added and allowed to melt into the oil before pouring into a clean salsa jar. It was left uncovered until the mixture had set, which took around 15-20 minutes. Oops, I forgot to add, I also added about 4 drops of lavender oil while the beeswax was melting, both for fragrance and soothing properties.

We started using the salve straight away. I have been rubbing it on all of my 'dry' bits - feet, hands, fingernails, while the 9 yo has been applying it to her sore ears where she seems to often get skin irritations. We have both seen an improvement in just this short week we have been using it. Of course, the other two suddenly 'discovered' hidden scratches and cuts that needed some homemade medicinal love....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday

The Ring of Fire (and it burns, burns burns, that ring of fire, ring of fire...)

Hubby's new wood splitter

Arteest

Firebug

Determined

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Duckweed' plus Spinach and Cheese Pie

Our dam is covered in duckweed at the moment, which I find fascinating. It started to appear over summer and I kept thinking it was fallen wattle blooms that were taking a long time to soak up into the water (a really long time!!). It wasn't until a friend came over and stuck her hand in there for a scoop that we actually realised it was indeed an aquatic plant we had on our hands, or in hers, as the case turned out to be.

Duckweed  (Lemnaoideae), multiplies very fast when conditions are right. I have been concerned that we may be harbouring a weed, although at the moment the positives seem to be outweighing any negatives (such as aesthetics). It serves as a useful food for the ducks, it draws up the nutrients in the water that the ducks inevitibly leave behind, it has screened the surface of the water over summer from the hot sun, lessening evaporation and algae growth. We're not sure where exactly it came from, but it has certainly made itself at home on our dam.

duckweed covered dam
A recent visit to the local plant nursery found them selling azolla, a similar water plant, in a wine barrel filled with water! Apparently customers can scoop out a portion and take it home for their ponds or bird baths. After discussing the plant at quite some length with the man behind the counter, it was established that the plant should die back over winter and may or may not re-grow in the following Spring. Growth is unpredictable and varies from one season to the next.


close up of duckweed

..and from the top. Quite pretty in it's own way.
So, at least now I know just what exactly it is on our dam I can stop waiting (and waiting!) for that pesky wattle blossom to break down!

I also wanted to share the following pie recipe here in addition to jotting it down for my own records.
This spinach and cheese pie is an easy one to make that uses ingredients straight from the garden. My favourite kind of recipe! A good friend actually made it for me when my spirits needed lifting a few weeks ago and I've made it a few times since, varying it to my own tastes..it's just sooo good. And cheesy, very cheesy. Not the best pie to eat if dieting, but one that will surely get the small people of the house eating their greens.....

Did I mention cheesy?

Fresh greens, leeks, herbs and fresh eggs - a true veggie garden dinner!
The best thing about this pie (besides pleasing the ever present vegetarians), is that you can use whatever you have growing in the veggie patch. The recipe calls for spinach, but who grows true English spinach in our area? We use silverbeet (or chard as it also goes by). My friend also throws in parsley and beetroot leaves, along with any other greens that are around in her garden at the time of picking. Wash them, chop them and spin dry them in the salad spinner and you're good to go.

It's also a great recipe for using up perennial leeks  in place of the spring onions, and we all know how generous they are!

Spinach and Cheese Pie
(Chop and change your ingredients, according to what you have growing or available)

1 bunch of fresh garden greens, about 6-8 large silverbeet leaves, or the equivelent in other greens
6 spring onions - again, substitute leeks if you have them growing, sliced
olive oil, for sauteeing
5-6 eggs, depending on their size
250g feta, crumbled
250g cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup good parmesan, finely grated
a handful of chopped fresh parsley, chopped
1 sprig of rosemary or several of thyme, finely chopped
salt/pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
milk for brushing

Preheat oven to 180c. Prepare the greens by washing them well and shaking dry. Chop roughly (removing any stalks) and spin dry them in a salad spinner. Further drying them on a clean tea towel will reward you with a pie that isn't in the least bit soggy.

Saute the leeks/spring onions in a generous splash of olive oil over low heat until tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a very large mixing bowl, whisk eggs then add cheeses, spinach/greens, parsley, rosemary, leeks and salt/pepper. Mix well. Place into a greased lasagna dish or rectangular pyrex (the medium to largish size, you know the one I mean) and smooth out.  Place pastry on top, overlapping in the centre. Brush with milk and bake for 40 mins approx, until top is golden brown and the smell of your cheesy pie is making the stomachs in the house growl.

May be served warm or cold.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On my mind...

...is an exciting project with homespun yarn!


100% alpaca yarn (dk weight), from 'Dusty', the alpaca
 This yarn is from 'Dusty',  my friend's alpaca and it was satisfying to see to the preparation of the fleece through the beating of the dust, the picking out of the grass seeds, the spinning, plying, skeining, washing, and lastly knitting (!).

Hopefully it will be a vest for me to wear out in the garden - that is if it doesn't drop and stretch tooo much, which I've been told is an alpaca trait, oh!

I've set this knitting aside while I work on a couple of birthday presents, but I keep staring at it and am looking forward to when I can get back to curling up on the couch with it in the evenings.



'On My Mind' is a Friday photo feature hosted by Rhonda at 'Down to Earth' for anyone with a blog. For more 'On my mind' posts or to participate, visit Down to Earth (on my mind)
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