Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm finally back in blog-land!

Trouble in blog-land ..... I've been meaning to write an update for ages now but haven't been able to sign in. Every time I try my computer/modem gives up and goes to sleep :-(

So, I'm finally in today (via some ridiculous route!) so I'll try to remember -in a quick update -all the things I was going to post ......!

PLANTING - cauliflower seedlings (started from seed, tried twice in the patch but every one was eaten by slugs, so now in polystyrene boxes!), tatsoi, mixed lettuces (also in boxes) and herbs bought from Blackheath Farmers market -sage, tarragon, chives, celeriac and dill. Ok, I don't actually know what to do with some of them, but I wanted something different and my 3 y.o. son was helping me 'choose' and potting them himself! They have this great 'pick n mix' system for veggies or herbs, where you pick whatever seedlings you want and put them into a 6-8 pack planter. Great value!

HARVESTING - not much now ..... some purple king beans, cherokee wax beans, silverbeet. Plenty of herbs and of course, the eggs. I think the chooks are slowing down with the colder weather, last week only 14 eggs from the 3 of them.

BAKING - Mmmmm ..... made biscotti recently, as our Easter treat instead of choccy eggs. Turned out beautifully- crunchy, nutty, perfect with coffee .....


2 cups plain flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

rind of 1 orange, finely grated

1 cup caster sugar

120g blanched whole almonds

80g hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 190c. Line 2 baking trays.

Sift flour and baking powder into large bowl. Make a well in the centre and
add eggs, orange rind and sugar, stir. Add nuts.

On a lightly floured surface knead mixture gently until combined. Divide into
4 portions, shape each into narrow loaf shapes, place 2 on each tray.

Bake for 30 mins, allow to cool, then slice with a serrated knife.

Return to oven and bake for a further 30 mins at 150c, or until golden brown.
This second bake gives biscotti its crunchy texure.

Also made a gorgeous Autumn Crumble (also now known as 'oh-my-god crumble', it was THAT good! We had 2 big bags of apples and pears, again from Blackheath farmers market, they are so cheap at the moment as are in season - perfect. So I decided to make a nice hot dessert for our cooler weather. Unfortunately I don't have a photo as it went too quickly! Will definitely make it again soon though so pic will follow next time .....


(serves 4-6)

150g butter, cold and cubed
1 cup plain flour
140g brown sugar
¼ - ½ cup oats
¼ tsp cinnamon, and powdered ginger if desired

4 apples
4 pears
juice ½ lemon
1 extra tbs sugar

Crumble –
Mix flour and cinnamon in bowl (and ginger if using)
Add butter, rubbing in with fingertips until resembles coarse breadcrumbs
Add sugar and oats, mix well

Fruit filling –
Peel and cut fruit into large chunks
Mix in bowl with lemon juice and sugar
If using hard fruit (eg granny smiths or hard pears) can be poached for 5 mins to semi-soften

Spread or layer fruit into buttered dish
Spoon crumble on top, flatten down lightly
Bake at 180c for approx 40 mins until golden on top and fruit soft

Serve with custard or ice-cream

Variations –
may need less butter/ more flour- use texture as guide
Brown sugar 100g + white sugar 40g worked well when not enough brown
Finely chopped almond slivers added to crumble mix before baking
Cinnamon and/or ginger could be added to fruit mix instead of in crumble mix

I'd love to know how you go with these recipes if you try them, let me know!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Loving Vinnies .....!

I'm loving Vinnies at the moment- so many bargains recently! And I always seem to find exactly what I need at just the right time....

I recently picked up some great bargain clothes, a beautiful Australian Heritage Cookbook for $2 (combines food and Colonial art- 2 of my favourite things!) and a cute salt and pepper set for $1 - for shaking cinnamon and chocolate on my coffees....mmmm....)

The day my husbands watch strap finally shredded itself to a fine string I walked in and found brand new Rip Curl leather straps for $5- complete with watch tools!

And then I found these .........

Now I'm not usually an embroidery-fan, but you know when something just jumps out at you? I do really like native flowers, and here were 3 kits - flannel flower, Sturts desert pea, and banksia, AND 3 frames specifically for them. At $2 each, how could I leave them there?

Obviously someone was having a crafty clear-out, as I also found an embroidery frame (although until that day I didn't know there was such a thing!) with instructions for $5.

So home they are, and I have started on the Sturts Desert Pea. The kits have all instructions and threads so even I can have a go!

Once I started I had some vague memories of doing embroidery at primary school, and I remember enjoying it!
Well, it was some 20-odd years ago so I'm a bit rusty. Anyway, at the moment its looking like this ----

If they turn out ok I will post pics here, if not -I'll put them on a distant wall !

Friday, April 10, 2009

Backyard Revolution

I was pleased (and quite surprised) to see 'Backyard Revolution' aired on '60 Minutes' last week. Surprised because its not their usual type of sensationalised story, and pleased because it seems the general population is waking up to the benefits of growing your own food!

Peter Cundall appears with his usual 'chuck-it-in-the-ground-and-it-will-feed-you-for-months' approach (I love him! He makes it look so easy and is always inspiring. Can't believe he is 82!)

If you missed 'Backyard Revolution' or for those overseas, you can watch it by clicking HERE

Its only about 12 minutes long so no excuses!

I have been wondering whether this really is a 'revolution' that is sweeping the country, or whether it's just that my eyes are opened more now and I'm mixing with different people (real or online) that have the same interest .... but I'm starting to realise that yes, people are getting out and getting into their gardens and growing more than lawn!

The show just touched on some of the reasons why growing you own food is beneficial, and mostly talked about the benefits of fresh food over processed food, rather than home-grown over supermarket fruit/veg. I would have liked to see a little more talk about food miles, genetic engineering of food and how huge corporations like Monsanto are taking control of our food future, but hey, its only a 12 minute slot! and for this type of story to be covered at all on a mainstream show is progress.

Viva la revolution!

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Gadgets

Uh-oh, once again the blog gets neglected while real life takes over ..... or maybe I've just been too busy with my new toys! I bought these 2 weeks ago- the same pressies we planned on buying ourselves at Christmas with our Xmas money (only that particular shopping trip was abandoned due to our kids turning into some kind of possessed creatures), anyhow, I just knew a sale would come our way soon and so here they are ......

Breville Venezia Espresso machine (came with free coffee-grinds bin, or bang-bang as I call it)

and Breville Wiz Mix Pro (came with free amazing scales that do everything except bake the cake)

Both in lovely 'Platinum' finish, and all for lots less than I was going to pay at Christmas!

Now, a certain friend of mine (you know who you are!) did suggest that people buy coffee machines and then never use them, but rest assured this one is used every day! (in fact we justified buying it by calculating that if we had bought as many coffees as we had in the first week, we already paid for 1/4 of the machine!

Having used commercial machines some years ago it took a couple of goes to get the feel for it, but it truly makes the best coffees.

And I also discovered Blue Mountains Coffee Roasters in Valley Heights, the owner roasts his coffee beans on site, grinds them freshly for you if you need it, was very friendly and really knows his stuff! So we will be regulars there I am sure.....!

The mixer has had a little less action, but still done 2 cakes and a couple of batches of biscuits, with great results. Has attachments for mixing anything inc. bread dough so I will be experimenting with that later.

Now, all of this does sit a little uneasily with our plans of using less energy (or electrical gadgets in particular) and just generally buying less 'stuff' - but I think if that 'stuff' helps in creating home-made food, and actually gets used instead of sitting in a cupboard, then we are allowed a little luxury!

No electrical gadgets last Saturday though, Earth Hour came around again and once again we switched off everything we could. It wasn't too difficult with the kids asleep, we just lit a few candles and actually talked instead of vegging out in front of the idiot box. It was good the next day seeing some global highlights on You-tube, lights going out everywhere on major landmarks, it was like New Years Eve in reverse!