Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Beginning - How We Came to Grow Veggies

A number of years ago we were in Melbourne staying with the in-laws for holidays and as they have a wonderful veggie garden we would go downstairs and pick salad items for our lunch or dinner.  I thought it was amazing to grow such wonderful food in the back garden and dreamed about doing this ourselves.  We came back to Brisbane and I planted some carrots and we set up a sort of compost heap and neither of them were very successful so I didn't have any confidence at growing vegetables.  I also wanted to get chickens however my marriage was on the rocks and what was the point bringing chickens into that (ha....it was the hassle of are we moving shortly I couldn't handle looking after another thing on my already stressed plate).   Another year later we were back in Melbourne again for my father in law's 70th Birthday and I was still inspired by the lovely home grown potatoes and other foods that we were eating.  While I was there I read lots of gardening books and dreamed about having chickens so we could have fresh eggs.  I went to Borders (which is no longer in Australia anymore) to buy myself some books and I poured over more magazines while I was there.

Back again in Brisbane and sometime later and by this stage my marriage was well and truly over and it was extremely stressful for me on my own with 2 young kids still in the marital home (my dream home) which I knew would have to be sold so I never started the veggie patch because what was the point, we would be selling the house.  The kids and I continued to stay in the house however as you know there is a price to pay for everything and whilst we lived there our lives weren't really our own but that's where we were at.  Some more time passed and I thought I'm just going to do this and stop waiting for the right time.  I went right ahead and bought my veggie boxes from Bunnings, lots of dirt and compost and plants and we set them up and started growing veggies.  All of the other stuff was out of my control but I knew I wanted to start a veggie garden and I was sick of waiting and wondering where we would be living so in April 2010 we set up two little veggie plots.  James was 6 years old and Sienna was 4 by this stage.

It was on Easter Sunday afternoon that my sister and I put  the kids to work and help set up our very first garden that was going to be successful with the right soil.  I might mention 2 months prior to this I did a one day course with 2 of my friends on growing veggies which was held at the Sunshine Coast which was great.  The biggest thing I took away from that day was about the soil.  If you have good soil your veggies will thrive.  Think about a house that needs painting.  You can slap the paint over the top of the old paint and it won't look very good however if you take the time to sand the house first and then apply the paint it will be much better so it's the preparation that's important because once that is done the paint will go smoothly over the top.  The same applies to gardening, if your soil is good then the veggies grow themselves.  We learnt heaps of other things on the day which seemed all very daunting to me on the day but it all fell into place eventually.

We did a layered no dig garden and put down weed mat first and made sure we wore masks to protect ourselves from breathing in the compost.  In one of the bottom photos you can see the gloves the kids wore are too big for them and Sienna's were so big they were just floppy at the end which looked quite funny.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Home Made Pasta

Making pasta has always intimidated me as it just sounds kinda scary if you are not an Italian Mamma however last year we gave it a go for the first time and we didn't do too badly at all.  We have a little pasta machine from Kmart ($15) which just has 2 types of cut settings for fettuccine and spaghetti which is fine for our little family.

I don't make it very often because during the school week our afternoons are super busy with afternoon tea, play time, homework, baths, dinner, reading and bed however I would like to be more confident and make our own pasta more often than not.  The last time Sienna and I made it I didn't like it because it tasted too rubbery and I'm thinking it was just too thick.  Any tips anyone can give me on this would be greatly appreciated that's for sure.  I have been told that on Masterchef they make the pasta, toss it in flour and cook it straight away to avoid the lengthy drying process.  Would love some tips to get better pasta made at home from others who are making this on a regular basis.

Here's a few photos from our first pasta making experience taken last year.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Anzac Day Recipes

We went on a family BBQ today to Bellbird Grove which is nice and close so this morning we got to making the following for our BBQ:-

  1. Anzac Biscuits
  2. Pita Triangles with Rosemary & Sea Salt (also known as Pita Chips)
  3. Lemonade with home grown lemons

First we got to work on the Anzac Biscuits made the mixture in the Thermomix with Sienna (7) pressing all the buttons on the machine.  Once the mixture was made it was divided into two bowls so that James (9) and Sienna (7) could roll some biscuits each into balls.  Here's some photos of the Anzac Biscuit process.

Next on our recipe list was to made the Pita Chips which required using my pizza cutter to cut the pita bread into triangles and pop them onto a tray.  Once they were on the tray I sprayed them with Olive Oil and James cut some rosemary from the veggie garden and took it off the stalk and then I used the pizza cutter again just to make the rosemary a little smaller and then he sprinkled that over both pita breads and then sprinkled them with Murray River Pink Salt and popped them in the oven for about 10 mins.  The oven had been on 160 degrees for the Anzac Biscuits so I just stood by the oven.  I always use the timer on my iphone when cooking and just put the timer on for 5 mins checked them, then 5 mins more and checked them until they were brown.  You have to stay next to the oven because they can go brown very quickly and depends if the oven was already hot or not.  There is no exact time, just stay by the oven and potter around your kitchen when making these.  They are AMAZING and they were all gone in 5 mins at our BBQ today.  This is the topping we use on our Focaccia Bread however I didn't have time this morning to worry about making the bread so the pita bread was perfect and very tasty.  So instead of chips or corn chips these are beautiful. The other topping I used to put on these years ago which is very savory is "Lemon Pepper" which you can buy in the dry herb section of the supermaket/grocer.  You will have to try these when you are looking for a healthy savory snack.  Here's the finished product straight from the oven.

And lastly but not least some good old fashioned homemade Lemonade using these home grown lemons.  We only bought our dwarf Lemon Tree in June last year and it has produced 7 lemons so we are pretty excited about it.  I don't have a picture of the lemonade however that didn't last long at the BBQ either as everyone loved it.  I only made one litre but it's very exciting making something so refreshing with lemons that you have home grown.  So that was our adventures in getting ready for our BBQ at Bellbird Grove.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Whole Foods Workshop

I have recently come across this course called Whole Foods Workshop and would really love to do this on-line workshop with Heather at Beauty that Moves.  Unfortunately it is not on until the end of the year but I am keen to do this and really expand my cooking with more wholesome foods.  It is better for your mind, your body and budget.  Has anyone done this course themselves as I would be keen to hear how you enjoyed it, how it changed your life and/or improved your life.  I think in this very busy world of ours the best thing to do is do what you can at this present moment.  When you start to change things for the better you can't do everything at once so it's baby steps but I am wanting to do this course in 2013 for the benefit of myself and my family.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Welcome to readers from Down to Earth Blog

Rhonda listed my blog on her Weekend Reading list which I was thrilled about.  What it did remind me to do was to post more pictures and stories on this blog which only has a few posts.  So if you are here for the first time a big hi to you and I would love you to post a quick comment to say hi.  Reading Rhonda's blog which I first found a few years ago reminds us of the important of good living, purposeful living and seeing the everyday in our lives.  Here is a little iphone pic of my kids James (9) and Sienna (7) at the local Farmers Markets with would you believe it a little piggy.  You can imagine all the "little little piggy went to market" jokes that the kids and I came up with.  We were buying our wonderful organic sausages from Bonny Beef and next door was the Bacon stall and this little tiny pig running around so we just had to have a photo with him.  Apparently he had hurt himself so he wasn't going to be turned into bacon.  Remember the little "makin bacon" little game with the two plastic piggies...we had a fun morning so here's a few local market pics from a couple of weeks ago.

Living with Nature

Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk around our neighbourhood and on the way home one of the neighbours pointed out the Tawny Frog Mouth Owls that live in the trees in our Street.  I had my camera with me however walked home to get my zoom lens to get a closer photo of them.  They are living in the paper bark trees and there was one Owl in one tree and another in the tree next to it.  One Owl just kept looking down at us perfect for taking photos.  How wonderful is it to have these Owls living in our very own Street and the kids and I were thrilled to watch them.  Apparently they fly off around 6pm at night and return during the day for their little sleeps.  Here's some photos of the Owls.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Home Made Raspberry Jam

I have longed to make some home made jam however the whole "canning/preserving" thing seems very intimating to me.  Reading a book sounds great however for this particular hobby I would like to be shown how to do it by someone already doing it.   A couple of years ago I did attempt to make Strawberry Jam in the Bread Maker as mine has a jam setting on it however the kids didn't like it, the strawberries cost me a fortune and the bread tin ended up with hard set sticky jam on it which required the assistance of my good friend to help me scrape it off the tin.

So with my first attempt was a complete failure on so many levels and I haven't tried making it since however I love the idea of home made jam and my lovely friend Karin just made some plum jam to be kept in the fridge eaten rather than storing it for a year on a shelf so I got up the courage to give it a go.

Actually it was pretty simple as I just used the Thermomix and sterilized the jars in the oven and it was all done in no time at all.  I found the instructions on how to sterilizethe jars in the oven from Rhonda at Down to Earth Blog.

I made 3 jars of jam and the kids and I love it and really appreciate their Mum making them home made jam.  They know that home made things taste better, they know because they are home made they don't have nasty chemicals in them and are way better than the store bought items.  I get lots of love from them for things like this....yeh Mum....

I used this Thermomix recipe and bought frozen raspberries which were the cheapest at the supermarket at the time.

I checked the "per kilogram" pricing to work out the best price for the raspberries, not the box price which I was explaining to James in the supermarket the other day when I saw the blocks of cheese.  I was trying to show him the blocks of cheese look the same, same brand, same packaging, different flavour, ie mild vs tasty and they were both $6.50 however one had 50 gms less.  They both looked identical and yet one was $11 per kg and one was $9 per kg.  It takes a mathematician to get around the supermarket these days and not get ripped off by very clever packaging.  A while back I worked out the ham the same way, same packing etc. yet one had dropped their net weight to 80 gms instead of 100 gms and no one is the wiser so the price goes up because you are getting 20% less product but when you are buying it the price is the same as it was last year and the same packaging. (now I've had my little rant about the clever ways companies are trying to rip off consumers I'll get back to my jam making adventure).

After I had made the jam it only seemed fit to make some scones for afternoon tea as well.  I normally make scones using a recipe with buttermilk and the scones are soft and fluffy however I didn't have any on hand and didn't want to make a special trip to buy some so I used a recipe on the net however I will definitely go back to my buttermilk scones next time as there was no comparison.  The kids had no problems devouring the scones and jam so it has been a very successful jam making venture and of course there are the beautiful little jars to put the jam into.

I would love to learn how to do canning properly one day however these little jars of jam are going to be consumed before they will ever have the chance to go off.  Has anyone else made jam recently?

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Moment in the Past

We've had lots of rain in Brisbane over the past two years however whenever the sun comes out it's a great time to peg the washing.  After living in Melbourne for two years back in 2002-2003 when we moved back to Brisbane the first thing that I did was enjoy pegging the washing in the sun.  It was such a simple thing but one that gave me great pleasure to hang the clothes out to dry in the sun.  Here's a photo I took last year to capture that feeling.

Hot Cross Buns

This Easter my 9 year old son James made Hot Cross Buns in the Thermomix with a little bit of help from me (Mum).  Last year a friend of ours made them in her Thermomix and she said they were great so we were keen to try them out this year.  They were very simple and looked like the real deal although ours were very rustic and original and we certainly enjoyed eating them on Easter Sunday.  Here's a few pics iphone and DSLR.