Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm Having A Day Off Today

I've made the beds and set the house to rights. So, I'm going to have a day to do whatever I like. Inside, outside where ever. Busy or lazy, I'm not sure yet. I only have until 2:30pm because then I have to pick my son up to go to hockey so I better get started.

I'll reprt my progress or lack there of later.
Have a nice day,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Weekend Away

I spent last weekend celebrating our wedding anniversary. The past two years we have gone away for the weekend now that our children are old enough to not miss us too much. Last year we spent the weekend at Kings Plains Castle which was nice. This year we stayed at Peterson's Guesthouse in Armidale.
The weather was a bit grey and overcast so not conducive to good photography. The accommodation was lovely. It was quite grand without being over the top.

They provided a lovely cheese platter which left little room for dinner out but we managed.

It was nice to not have to cook or clean or have to perform those other every day tasks for a couple of days. The first thing we did when we got home though was to go outside and plant out the new plants we gave each other as gifts. Tim received two roses- Fire Fighter and Gift of Grace and I received a lovely Ruby Grapefruit tree so in a few years I will have our own grapefruit to make our favourite sorbet. Dinner on Sunday night was a simple vegetable laden stir-fry. It always seems to me that meals eaten out are often light on the vegetables.
Back to normal life today with 5 loads of washing, moving sheep around different paddocks, feeding chickens, weeding. No school though, we are having two weeks break.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Soups

Economical, easy, often healthy. What's not to love about soup? Two of my children could give you a myriad of reasons why soup is not a great meal but they can eat the bread I say.

I made two pots of soup yesterday. One for dinner and one for the freezer. The first soup went into the freezer not because it was the lesser soup but because the other one was too hard to resist.

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup of red lentils
2 small potatoes
Enough water or stock to cover.
Place all ingredients in a large pot, bring to the boil and cover.
Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
This serves about four people and freezes well.
Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

The other soup which was a spicy broccoli. It must be good for you because it really is not very pretty to look at. I know I certainly would have turned my nose up at this when I was younger. Now I can see beyond the obvious and give everything a try before I decide if I like it or not.

Spicy Broccoli Soup
500 grams broccoli, chopped
2 cups water or stock
2 small chillies
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat olive oil over a medium heat and add onion, chillies and garlic. Fry gently for a few minutes until the onion is softened.
Add the stock/water and bring to the boil.
Add the broccoli bring back to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the broccoli is tender.

Spicy Broccoli Soup
(this is one ugly soup but it tastes great)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cooking Lessons

Grace, my eldest daughter is 12 and has always loved being in the kitchen. She has been a state finalist in CWA cooking competitions for the 8 years and under section and now she is learning cooking as part of our homeschool curriculum.

When I was at school and learnt cooking in it's guise of home science, we cooked things that were easy and even then somewhat outdated. Definitely not the type of thing that you would sit down together as a family and enjoy. Ofcourse we are covering the aspects of nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet but we also looking at using seasonal and local ingredients too. Everything she has prepared so far has used some ingredients we have grown ourselves.

Monday night is Grace's night in the kitchen and this week she prepared the Beef Stroganoff with parsley and black pepper fettuccine. We picked up the free recipe card from the supermarket and she made it all by herself. The recipe is from the television program Masterchef and although we don't watch the show, we enjoyed the meal.

It is also a bonus that I can have some help in the kitchen from someone who can cook well and enjoys doing it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trading in Blogging Currency

A camp fire family picture

Today I am going to do some trading in the currency of the blogging world. Comments. I am going to spend a little while making sure I leave a comment on any blog I visit. It's nice to receive comments especially encouraging ones so here I go.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Citrus Squares

I have a lot of citrus fruit on my bench. I have our own fruit and also some lemonade fruits and slightly sour oranges from a fellow freecycler. The oranges are a little more sour than those you would buy in the shop but, they are not too sour to eat. I like them on the tart side anyway.

With the abundance of citrus, I have made lime syrup and coconut muffins, fruit cordials and some orange and poppy seed cake. Thank goodness for the freezer so we don't have to eat it all at once. An old faithful recipe though for citrus (especially lemons), is Citrus Squares.

Citrus Squares
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup plain flour
Citrus curd
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup fesh citrus juice
Preheat oven to 180 deg C (350deg F)
Grease and line a square 20 x 20 cm baking tin.
Mix the pastry ingedients together in a bowl until they form a soft dough. Press the dough into the prepared tray and bake for 20 minutes.
To prepare the curd, mix the ingredients together in a bowl (I usually use the same bowl) and whick until smooth.
Remove the pastry from the oven after 20 minutes and pour the curd mixture over the top and return to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.
Cool, slice into squares and dust with icing sugar.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Winter flowers

In my winter garden, there isn't too much in flower presently. What is in flower though is lovely. The tiny little violets that can scent a whole room with just a tiny posy.

The jonquils are just starting to open up. I think they are a great bulb. They never fail to come back up year after year and have a very spring fragrance although the weather is cold.

Last July, I started exteding the front garden bed and path from the herb garden. For no reasons other than laziness and a lack of motivation, I did no more to it until Monday. Nearly a whole year with a garden bed that was more in my mind than in reality. A few hours work (with the help of my son) and it is almost ready to be planted out. I'm a bit ashamed of myself really for dilly dallying so long.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Soup Season

This week has been the real start of cold weather. The kind of cold where you don't really want to get out of bed until someone else has lit the fire and made you a cuppa.

Some members of the family don't mind the frosty mornings though. It means that the toys have their very own ice skating pond.
One thing I like about the colder weather is that we eat more soups. I think they are underrated. Most of the recipes that I have for soups, are so simple that it is almost as quick to cook them from scratch as it is to prepare a canned alternative. The flavour of the fresh soup ofcourse wins hands down every time. This week, we have enjoyed both pumpkin soup and also a sweet parsnip soup. The parsnip offering was my favourite.
Parsnip Soup with cheese scones
Parsnip Soup
3 parsnips
1 pear
water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup of cream
pinch of nutmeg
Peel and chop the parnips and pear.
Cook the parnips and pear (in enough water or stock to cover them) until tender.
Stir in the cream and nutmeg and serve.
Very easy and on the table in about 20 minutes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I bought eggs

This is the egg tray I use to store my eggs. All I have left are two eggs, one duck egg and one chicken egg. The chickens are 'off the lay' because of the weather, age, or for whatever reason happy, well-fed chickens decide to not give back. I don't begrudge them a rest. what I do not like though is having to buy eggs. I don't do it very often and I am always surprised when I have to.

On Tuesday morning I bought a dozen eggs at the greengrocers. Their range isn't huge unlike the supermarket, and the only choice for eggs produced with chicken welfare in mind were these. They were $5.49 for a dozen. I'm glad I don't have to buy those every week. Although I choose to buy the more expensive eggs which I hope are true to their word and are from free range chickens, I can understand and accept the plight of those who are not in a position to make that choice and buy the 2 dozen eggs for $4.oo.
I don't think there is a discernible difference in taste of shop bought eggs and homegrown eggs. There are definitely differences in the appearance. Shop bought eggs never come with feathers and other matter attached and they are never still warm like a fresh laid egg.
The last time I went to buy poultry feed, I went to a different store. The owner of the store didn't stock the laying mash I usually buy but I figured chook food is chook food. He even said his was better. After the bag was emptied into the feed hopper, I read the ingredient list and it contained pigments for the yolk. Although they were stated to be natural, I don't think I will buy that brand again. i guess it pays to be careful not just with what we feed ourselves, but also with what we feed to the animals that feed us.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

While it rains

On Tuesday we had mild, sunny day until it started raining again in the late afternoon. We do need some fine weather now even if it for nothing else but to let the poultry pens dry out. The chooks especially don't like it too wet. The ducks and turkeys really seem too silly to care either way.
I have kept up with my knitting while watching a little bit of River Cottage on DVD. I chose to start from the beginning and have watched all of Escape to River Cottage. I watched A Cook on the Wild Side during the Christmas holiday period. Unfortunately yesterday, there was a minor mishap in my knitting bag and one sock came off the set of four needles and it was too difficult to pick up the stitches so it is back to the beginning. Aargh.

I did a bit of sewing too. I had a couple of blocks to make for a swap on my yahoo quilting group. Two twelve inch blocks in bright colours were required so I chose an easy Nine Patch design and the brightest orange I could find in my fabric box. Sewing is great rainy day fun.