Friday, December 27, 2013

From the (very festive) week...

1. Festive favours of the homegrown garlic variety
2. The teen's completed gingerbread house
3. Ahem. Oh dear!
4. Revisiting some old favourites
5. Pecan pie - yum!
6. A particularly festive salad
7. New season good!
8. She snaps.
9. Local swimming..
10. ...and rope swinging!
11. Homemade raspberry schnapps (following this recipe over at Elastic Mom) 
I used gin, raspberries and a little bit of sugar.
12. The most amazing birthday present. Can you believe it's even handquilted!!
(Thankyou sooooo much Mum xxx)
13. Hoping your week has been completely wonderful.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rustic mushroom tart, baby sewing and a surprise visitor!

 Pre-festive greetings to you! A few goings on from the week to share, from my world to yours...

1. Mushroom tarts:

I was making a meal for a friend this week and decided to go with a mushroom tart. Not having made one before I was happy with the happy I ended up eating the second one myself..shh. It was a combination of several enticing looking recipes morphed into one..scroll down to see my kombi-recipe. 

2. Baby sewing:
(New Look 6793)

Two gifts were needed in a hurry for two different babies and New Look 6793 proved to be a most suitable pattern (if a little oversized!). Above is the dress version, view A, which I made in a 'small' size, although appears to be sized around 6months/00. 

Below are view C and D - pants and top which I made in newborn size, although actually turned out more like a commercial 3 month/000 sizing. That's both cases the recipients can grow into them... 

3. The Teen Creates:

Of late -  a gingerbread house. I had found myself in a situation with a large quantity of gingerbread dough in the fridge needing to be baked and she offered to make a house for the as you might well imagine, I said yes. 

I don't know how this will go with my plan to cut out sugar from my diet *sigh*. But while I figure it out, I can still enjoy looking at it in all it's naive sweetness, literally! Those wonky windows I happen to find particularly charming!

4: A surprise visitor!:

What an exciting discovery to find a small turtle sitting near our back door last night! After observing it for some time, we watched it make it's way back into the dam, in a most peculiar, (turtle like even?) fashion. A movement kind of like a cross between a waddle and a sassy sway..with all four legs moving in time and a very, very long neck poking out of that small shell! Quite swift it was too, in fact. What a sight! Happy Solstice! :)

Rustic mushroom, caramelised onion and thyme tart

2 large spanish onions, sliced
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1tbs brown sugar
500g button mushrooms, quartered
2 tbs butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 tbs fresh or dried homegrown thyme, chopped
125g greek feta, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
your favourite shortcrust pastry recipe
olive oil

Preheat oven to 180c. To begin, gently saute the onions in a little olive oil until transparent and then add the vinegar and sugar. Stirring often, allow the onions to cook down over a gentle heat until they are dark and thick, around 15-20 minutes.

Remove the onions and place into a separate bowl. Heat a little more oil in the pan and add the butter and allow it to melt and start to foam up. Add the mushrooms and cook gently until they are glossy and the juices are starting to run. Add the garlic and thyme and allow to cook until the mushroom liquid has nearly evaporated. Add the caremilised onions to the pan and season well.

Roll out the pastry into one large or two smaller squares and place on a lined baking tray. Heap the mushroom/onion mixture into the centre of the pastry and spread out to within about an inch from the edges. Fold the edges over to contain the mushroom mixture and brush pastry with beaten egg. Sprinkle tarts with crumbled feta and bake in the lower part of the oven for around 40 minutes, or until golden brown and base is cooked. Serve sprinkled with extra thyme with a green salad alongside.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Slow Living 2013 - November/December

Hello! It's been so long and I have missed visiting this space. There are many things happening around me that I long to blog about but am finding the time a real challenge. I won't bore you with the details, I am sure you know this feeling only too well yourself!

However, I really wanted to do a final wrap up for the Slow Living month by month series and was feeling extra guilty about not making it here for the November edition and then suddenly had a brainwave to combine the November and December installments. They don't call it the silly season for nothing! Trying to squeeze everything in at the moment is beyond challenging, so by combining the two months, hopefully it will ease the pressure somewhat! I would love it if you would join in with me to reflect upon achievements made under nine different categories. To read more about this blog link up, please see here. So without further ado, my November/December Slow Living entry:

{Nourish} - I have been spending time examining my diet recently and it's possible connection to some joint pain that I have been experiencing for several months now. I was convinced I had sensitivities to lactose and gluten and took steps to cut these things out of my regular eating. Not noticing any huge improvement with the joint pain, I remain unconvinced to any connection there, but did notice that I felt a whole lot better physically from not consuming so much of these foods. I have pretty much remained off dairy for a couple of months now, with the exception of yoghurt and the odd sneaking in of hard cheese, which don't seem to affect me too much with bloating and cramps. I can't believe it's taken me so long to connect the dots and try cutting them out! Now cooking for the family is another challenge that needs serious thought - what to do about lasagne, macaroni cheese, scalloped potatoes and so on. Why do most of my favourite comfort foods contain dairy? It's just not fair. Does anyone know of a good substitute for cream? I am finding this the hardest part of all!!

Homemade yoghurt, drained overnight to remove excess whey and mixed with homegrown raspberries..yum!

{Prepare} - Ooh, so much goodness has been happening in this category lately! I have been spending a lot of time dehydrating various items for the pantry - muesli, fruit leathers, mushrooms - sliced and also grinding them up into a powder, herbs - rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley (I figured let's save what's growing in the garden before hacking them back after they go to seed!), and apple rings. The apple rings are demolished straight away by the family - and the mushroom powder is proving to be very beneficial for sneaky additions to family dinners for a real flavour punch!

A little bit of pickling has been happening too..when I came across large continental cucumbers recently at a really good price, I just couldn't walk past them. The family love bread and butter cucumbers so we can always do with jars in the pantry - especially now with the warmer weather arriving and more 'picnicky' type lunches being consumed. 

A few boozy preparations have also been taking place in my kitchen too, such as a couple of jars of raspberry schnapps after reading a post on fruit schnapps by Cath at Elastic Mom. How divine does this sound! I have used some frozen raspberries that we had lurking in the freezer from last year's harvest and have used gin for the soaking liquid. Another couple of weeks and we should be good to go for a taste test,  - I'm thinking this could make the perfect liqueur to see in the new year!

A revisit to my oztops has also been taking place, with some apple cider already hitting the fridge. Next up, I am hoping to brew up a bottle of grape juice in the lambrusca style. But what is really tempting me from the boozy quarters is the idea of making some homemade mead! If only we had bees and a plentiful amount of fresh honey to use! Have you ever made mead? Do you have a good recipe to share?

{Green} - Hmm, lets see. I have a good one - did you know that in addition to using it as a hair wash, bicarb soda (baking soda) makes a fantastic cleanser for the skin? If you have dry skin, a little rub with a diluted bicarb paste/liquid (1tbs bicarb to 1 cup water) in the shower and then rinsed off does amazing things to the feel of your skin. I was so impressed to see that it actually kind of mimicked the effect of bathing in hot mineral springs - how cool is that? Try it and see for yourself!

I have also been turning my mind towards some infused oils from the garden now that the healing herbs have made a reappearance. I have started a calendula infusion with olive oil and after about 3 weeks in a sunny spot it should be ready to prepare into a salve. I would love to try a combination of calendula, comfrey and lavender infused in oil as well! And maybe even include a little bit of plantain..but more on that under "Discover".

Calendula oil  - for use on minor skin irritations such as burns, rashes, bites/stings etc.

{Grow} What a lovely thing it was to have some ladies from my veggie group come to visit and put some summer crops in for me. A little bit of cake, some hot coffee and an hour or so chatting is all it takes to fuel their energy for the task. They were kind enough to put in pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis for me last week.

With the unpredictable weather we've been having, I also decided to pull up our garlic as I was concerned about the bulbs sitting in damp soil and potentially rotting. I am really pleased this year to have a mixture of white and purple garlic harvested. The purple cloves I planted back in autumn were kindly given to me by my good friend, Kirsty. 

Allowing the bulbs to dry under cover before the messy task of braiding!

{Reduce} - I have been attempting alterations to clothing I don't wear to turn them into something I can wear. In some cases they are op-shopped/thrifted items that are too long or wide and a simple adjustment is needed. Other cases, are items I have made that don't fit me well and a revisit to the seam lines and darts are what's required. It is actually kind of fascinating to study the construction details of different garments and how they create the three dimensional form from what was previously a flat piece of fabric!

{Create} - Gosh, I've been on a big sewing binge lately!! I don't know what happened - one minute it was knitting season and the next - the sewing machine was out and whirring away. In the name of a mammoth fabric de-stash, I have made three summer tops, a pair of shorts for the youngest, a wrap-around skirt, and a dress! What a funny feeling it is to make wearable items from fabric that has been sitting in my drawer for...years way too long. I have also been drooling over online patterns and have found several inspirational sewing blogs to distract me from cooking dinner inspire me. Check out: Ginger Makes, Tilly and the Buttons and Sewaholic Patterns/blog for some great reading!

Op-shopped fabric from the stash and New Look 6803. Classed as easy..and it really was! Don't you love that?
{Discover} - As I mentioned above, some really cool sewing sites for the late night inspirational hit. I also enjoyed reading Changing Gears by Greg Foyster and have passed it along to my biking friend. Another interesting little book I've been looking through is The Weed Forager's Handbook. With references to many common weeds and their uses it is eye-opening to see healing and culinary uses behind these plants that were commonly just thought of as weeds. We have loads of plantain growing here and I would like to try and make an infused oil similar to the calendula one above, using plantain, which is apparently another great skin healer. I also keep eyeing off the mallow that we have growing  but have not gone there yet with it in regards to a  leafy salad addition! Do tell me, have you?

{Enhance} - A couple of meal trees are making the rounds within my circle lately. It is such a good feeling to provide a practical gift that nurtures the other person in a time of need. You can read more about meal trees here. My daughters' primary school also held it's biennial fete which was a lot of fun to participate in. There was such wonderful craft and plant shopping - perfect for this time of year! Helping out on the woodfired oven loading pizzas in and out was also enjoyable on the day. I also had a really nice experience a little further back and happened to meet a blog reader while going through the channels for some local volunteer work. (Hi Angie! :))

{Enjoy} Busy as this time of year is, there is much to enjoy and I really do feel lucky to recognise this. Winding up of photography and spinning club for the year with bbq's and festive lunches. End of year concerts/performances and presentation nights are in full swing. Breathing in the moment of my middle daughter's final days in primary school before she embarks on her high school career are precious. Watching her grow in confidence as she attempts and accomplishes things she has not done before also causes me to stop and reflect. Thinking about the special times planned ahead to gather with family and the arrival of a new year and some much needed holiday time. Hoping your time with the people around you is comforting and enjoyable as we wind down 2013. xx

 If you would like to join in with your own post in this link-up, please add your blog post link to the list below (and please add your post to the list if you were organised for November!)
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