Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tidying Up Bounty

The vegetable garden is a trifle chaotic right now. There is a flush of growth and everything was looking tangled and messy. I am not opposed to a messy garden but if I can't see the produce then I certainly can't pick it to cook. So I have happily spent most of the morning tying up rampant tomato bushes and discovering zucchini that really should have been picked a few days ago.

I love to cook and especially when I have something inspiring me. I am going to use these too big zucchini for some soup, a zucchini chocolate cake, a slice and some biscuits/cookies too.

This zucchini isn't too big so it will be served at dinner tonight. The tomatoes will go along with some parsley and other goodies to make a tabouli.

I am very much a cook who is inspired by what I have. I will first see what is in the garden or fridge and pantry and then consult the recipe books rather than find a recipe and then hope I have the ingredients. I do however on occasion see a recipe that I would like to make and then go about buying the ingredients.

Pistachio and cranberry biscotti

I saw this recipe on Viv's blog and it tempted me enough to buy some dried cranberries. I'm glad I did. My biscotti might be a little more toasted in appearance than it should be but it is delicious and it was simple to make and might just be on the healthy side as far as baked goods go.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making Cut Backs

Sending our son off to university is forcing a few cut backs in our household. Perhaps cut backs is the wrong term, we are just having to be a lot more careful with our finances. We are not struggling but at the moment at least until things find their groove, every dollar needs to be accounted for. This is not a bad thing really, it will mean that there can't be any waste or frivilous spending. We aren't by nature big spenders but those little purchases that no one pays much mind to like a cup of coffee when out in town sure do add up. We are going back to an envelope system for managing our cash at the moment to see how that works. It has been successful in the past so hopefully it will work now and trial and more importantly error won't be necessary.

So now will be the perfect time for us to really enjoy the things we have which don't cost us a cent.

Self sown cosmos are free. I know that I have vowed to remove all of the cosmos as they pop up but really I am soft-hearted and just can't resist allowing a few to grow and bloom.


The herb garden is well and truly established and provides something for our plate most days. Our initial outlay wasn't too costly and now we are at the stage where we can just divide plants if any bare spots arise. I love herbs and my herb garden in particular.

Elderflowers are a bit hip right now, I have even seen cordials in the supermarket. I have made the cordial before and I think I will make another batch with this crop of flowers. It is quite an understated flower and the cordial has a sweetness and delicate floral flavour that isn't overpowering.

We have been harvesting sunflower seeds as we garden, just removing the husk and eating. I probably should pick this huge flower head soon because I have learnt from experience that sunflowers can be there one day and gone the next thanks to the local birds.

Today I have been spending a bit of time outdoors. Although tonight our main meal is going to be an Asian style stir fry with chicken, garlic, tomatoes and zucchini, I have already decided that tomorrow we will be having some of this parsley. The parsley covers almost the whole bed so I will cut it back a bit and make a taboulli style salad as part of tomorrow nights meal.

Heres to happy frugal living.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Independence Days Update #2

Independence Days is hosted by Sharon.

Plant something: Just seeds for the winter garden.

Harvest something: The usual summer bounty just in much less quantity than usual. The weather has warmed up over the last couple of days but it may be that it is too late for some things to ripen before the cooler weather arrives.

Preserve something: Freezing leftovers. With my son being away from home now for university I have to adjust my cooking quantities. I had never realised how much one teenage boy must eat until he wasn't there.

Waste not: Compost, worms,poultry have all taken care of the scraps this week.I am a bit ashamed to admit I have wasted a bit of time this week watching My Kitchen Rules on television.

Want not: collecting a few items for the above mentioned son to use in his new dwelling.

Eat the food: We had to eat a couple of meals on the road this week because Tim and I had a quick trip to Sydney. But on the home front we have been enjoying pasta, salads, bread, soup and tonight a beef and Guiness pie courtesy of a tweaked recipe from Jamie at Home. I have also been baking quite a bit.

Building Community: I have changed my entry from building community food systems to just building community, it works better for me. Although I didn't do anything that felt like I was contributing to the community, I did get to enjoy the market in Sydney where there seems to be a thriving community of people eager for fresh produce at a good price.

I did join a group of online crocheters to swap granny squares and a group which makes bags to help eradicate the ubiquitous plastic bag. So a little bit of community activity.

Skill Up: Looking at things that I might be able to do to improve our financial situation and make us that little more independent.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Melting Moments

Today I am suffering the after effects of a few episodes of insomnia. Tiredness. Walking around with many things to do in my mind but without the energy or the motivation to do them. I have done what I have to and probably a little bit more on top because that is what you do right!?

I needed to bake and I thought something small and just a little bittersweet would be nice. Something that will be nice with a cup of herb tea (coffee is once again on the contraband list). Melting moments sounded good and a little cocoa to jazz them up even better.

I really should have taken the time to find the proper piping rose because if you use the wrong one like I did, they look just a little bit like something the dog would do. Still taste good though.

Chocolate Melting Moments


125 grams softened butter

2 tbsp icing sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

3/4 cup plain flour

1 tbsp cocoa


Preheat the oven to 180 deg C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Cream the sugar and butter together.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients until combined.
Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a half inch rose and pipe stars onto the baking tray.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Today I sandwiched the biscuits together with Nutella (yuck) because the girls like it and it is easy. But a chocolate ganache made with 15 grams of butter and 90-95 grams chocolate melted together and allowed to cool and set to a spreadable texture would be even better in my opinion. Obviously I do not like Nutella.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Independence Days Update #1

Independence days comes from here.

Plant something: Nothing at all but I am going to set out some seeds this afternoon for winter vegies.

Harvest something: Eggs, tomatoes, basil, other herbs, rocket and strawberries. The garden is really suffering from the cool, wet season with less bounty than usual.

Preserve something: No long term preserving just some soup for the freezer. Ham bones were cheap this week so I bought one even though we usually only have split pea and ham soup once a year.

Waste not: Unfortunately some strawberries went completely to waste. Our weather has produced ideal conditions for rotting. Nothing to be done with these, I'm not sure even the chickens would want them.

Want not: I have been offered a couple of bags of wheat courtesy of my dad. The chickens will be grateful and I am grateful that I don't have to buy some of the poultry rations for a while. Mum and Dad always get fresh eggs from us so no one is missing out.

Eat the food: There has been a fair amount of baking going on (school lunch boxes make it necessary). I still have a few dozen eggs in the fridge but between cakes, biscuits and the odd egg on toast we are getting through them. I did make something new last night, Harissa, tomato and garlic chicken which was delicious if a little spicy. Today I will be making pasta for lasagne.

Building Community: No, I just can't think what to do here.

Skill Up: I'm sure I do learn something new everyday but I don't think I have developed any new skills worth mentioning.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Rams

There are five rams on the farm at the moment. That is three too many so we will be selling the three youngest soon. The rams are currently in the paddock near the house so we have their company for a while. Keeping them close by and hand feeding them helps keep them quiet and allows us to train them to come when called and makes them easier to handle.

This is Crinkles. He is boss. Crinkles will be six in May and we have decided he will remain with us until the end. He was born on a small school farm and consequently had a lot of handling as a lamb. This has made him a little too familiar with people and he is not adverse to using his 100+ kilograms to get his way. I do not handle him at all as he has no respect for me at all. I keep a fence between us and things are just fine.

This guy will be for sale.

So will he.

And this one too.

In the flesh there are discernible differences between each sheep but I can see that on the screen they all look the same.Daryl, the ram we bought in June last year is staying too. He is camera shy so I couldn't catch a snap of him no matter how I tried.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Advertising works

I am a bit of a cricket tragic. I usually prefer to listen to the commentary on ABC radio but sometimes if I am sewing or have something to keep my hands busy I will sit down and watch it. I am also a traditionalist so I like the test matches most but last night I did watch a little of the limited ver match. The advertising this year for the major sponsor really did work its magic on me. It did make me want a chicken burger.

I didn't succumb fully to the lure of the ads. I made my own. I even felt adventurous enough to make my own mayonnaise. Homemade burgers were given the thumbs up by the four of us but only the adults enjoyed the homemade mayonnaise. The verdict from the youngsters was that it was too eggy. Not so, it only had one lonely egg yolk in the whole mix. It was very yellow though and quite unctious.

Although I am missing my boy, I have had such a great day. Baking, bike riding and working here at home on the farm.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Cheese Cave

A big thank you to Freecycle. Today I picked up a wine fridge which as a teetotaller will serve me as a cheese cave. In the past my cheese making efforts have involved juggling of ice bricks and eskys(coolers) to keep the temperature in the right zone. Now with my new FREE aquisition there shouldn't be anything to hold me back on the home cheese production front.

Why make cheese at home? It is fiddly, I don't save any money doing it and possibly the cheese doesn't always taste better than a good artisan cheese but I do like doing it. I get to be scientist and cook all at once.No two cheeses come out alike and it does feel like a bit of an achievement when it all goes to plan. So my aim will now be to make more of the hard cheeses which my family like to eat.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Time to slow down.

With a month of 2012 already over, it is time to slow down and get back in to some sort of routine and bring things back into focus. Things have been too hectic over the past couple of weeks for my tastes. A very rainy day like today is a good opportunity to sit down, organise and make plans because going outside today will only be for necessary activities such as animal care.

The cotton plant with its pretty leaves.

I'm sure others have that feeling sometimes that the way things are going on a day-to-day basis is not how they see their lives in the big picture. For example in my case, gardening is a big part of my life. It is something that I not only enjoy but use as a tool to provide for our family and reduce our cost of living. I love doing it and I don't want to stop but recently with being away and having a busy mind, I have only tended sporadically to the garden and have not been as active in collecting and using our own produce as I usually am or as I would like to be.

I actually wrote the above a couple of days ago and the internet connection would not allow me to post (or do anything internet related for that matter). I am glad to say that I am feeling more like me again and have been busy with our little farm but not too busy. Thankfully the balance at the moment is just right and we have been enjoying the bounty that we can grow. I am also glad to say that it has stopped raining for now. So finally some washing is getting dry and the sun is brightening up the house. Damp washing on airers and dull days really do make my house feel messy.