Thursday, 31 May 2012

Beef Bourguignonne

At this time of the year we start to lean towards hearty warming dishes that we would not dream of serving up in a hot Queensland summer.
I make this in my slow cooker and when I but the mushrooms I find the smallest ones I can that are still fully closed and firm.

4 Tbs Flour                              1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Paprika                       1/2 Tsp Pepper
1kg Stewing Steak                   2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
300gm Mushrooms                  3 Rashers of Bacon diced
2 Carrots                                 12 Small Onions (pickling size) or 2 diced Onions
1/2 C Boiling Water                 1 Tbs Tomato Paste
1 C Red Wine                          2 Beef Stock Cubes
1/2 Tsp Dried Thyme               1 Bay Leaf
2 Tbs Butter

Combine flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a bowl.  Dice Beef and dredge in flour mix.
Heat oil in a heavy based pan and add beef 1/3 at a time browning well then transferring to your slow cooker.
Brown diced bacon in the same pan and then transfer to your slow cooker.
As soon as you have removed the bacon de-glaze the pan with the boiling water making sure you get all of the meat sugars on the bottom of the pan.
Then add the stock cubes and dissolve before adding the tomato paste then tip it all into the slow cooker.
Dice carrots and add to the slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients except the butter.
Cook on low.
In my slow cooker I cook it for 6 hours but as every slow cooker is different the times may differ so refer to your user guide for the time on a similar beef dish.
Just before serving stir through the butter

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Huge Op Shop Haul

I have been asking around about preserving equipment at all my local op shops for a while now and had left my details with a couple of them.  The other day I got a call to say that some had come in from a deceased estate and would I still be interested as they had been in the shed gathering dust in the shed for many years.
I let them know that I was still interested and would be in the next day.

Well what a score look at what I got, a preserving unit, 2 crates of jars and accessories.

The haul
PS the kitchen Aid is mine and was not from the op shop
So here is what I got:
A small preserving unit with the front plug missing.  Well I assume that is what is missing, does anyone know?
See the little hole in the front
 There were a whole lot of rings stored in cornflour and they look to be in perfect condition.  Does anyone know why they would be stored this way?
Rubber rings stored in cornflour, well I assume that white
powder is cornflour.
If I am not back in a week you will know that it was not.
 I guess this is an indication of when they were last used.
Jars with a good layer of dust.
Sorry about the side ways picture.  But there was a stack of clips (about 30), lids (8 that were ok to keep), tongs and a thermometer.
So I did some calculations about what I got and the cost of buying new:

14 x Number 27 (800 ml) =  Not sure. I cannot find them new so perhaps this size has been deleted.
9 x Number 20 (600 ml) = $28 pack of 6
12 x Number 31 (1 litre) = $34 pack of 6

Clips = $15 pack of 12
Tongs = $16.50
Thermometer = $22
Rings = $4.50 pack of 12
Lids = $15.95 Pack of 12

Approximate cost = Over $220 new

And that is NOT including the preserving unit.

So what did I pay....

$20 for the lot!!!

I will need to pay to have the preserving unit electrically tested but there is no urgency as I have my stove top preserver which is much bigger than the op shop one.

I now have stacks of jars and just need to sort out some lids for the size 31 jars.  Then I will be preserving like a mad woman.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Sunday Outing

On Sunday Hubby and I took out dog Jessie to a local swimming hole.  She loves to swim and even though it was far to cold for us she was not concerned at all.
The swimming hole used to be a quarry many years ago and makes a fantastic swimming hole in summer.  Plus it is surrounded by trees and national park so is a good spot to cool down when it is hot.
There are BBQ's, picnic tables and composting toilets plus a big patch of grass perfect for a picnic or to dry off after a swim.
Posing for a photo

Here I come

Fetching sticks

Swimming even though the water was freezing

We chilled out in the sunshine

And Jessie just kept on swimming

Watching her shake always makes me laugh,
 her whole body shakes like a bowl of jelly
even her legs.

Monday, 28 May 2012

In A Pickle

Oh dear I hope someone out there can help as I have got pickle problems.  Lime pickle to be exact.

I have made a batch of Lime pickle and I am about to bottle it but it is BITTER!!  I'm talking peel your lips back and make your eyes water bitter.

Does anyone know if it gets better with age?

I followed the recipe exactly and it smells like it should but it is so bitter that at the moment it is in-edible.

I really hope someone has some ideas.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Gardening Experiments

The last few years have been pretty wet for us and two of the four veggie gardens that I created are not raised so the wet conditions have made growing some things challenging.
The two non raised garden beds have timber sleepers for edging so I have been trying to raise the soil level by introducing lots of compost and organic matter but it takes a lot to raise the soil level of the 16 sq metres of each garden bed.  There was the option of buying soil but not only is that an expensive option but you can never be sure what you might be introducing to your garden.
So I am trialing another method using bales of sugar cane mulch, which is fairly cheap to purchase here in Queensland.
What I have done is dug a channel the length of two bales end to end and put the bales on their side so that they were 1/3 below the original soil level and 2/3 above.  Then I have left a gap of 50 cm and repeated the process twice more till I had 3 rows of 2 bales running parallel to each other.  Then I dug another trench across the gap of each 50cm space on the downhill side (there is not much fall at all really) and placed another bale in each of these.
So now I have a big W shape and all of the soil that I dug out of the trenches was put back in between the bales and mounded against them on the two sides and the top.  The soil was full of worms and I was not happy to have to disturb them but hopefully this little experiment of mine will benefit us all.
I am hoping that there are benefits other than the good drainage here.  I am hoping for the following:
Increased soil temperature as the bales will act as a heat source as they break down.
The above soil level height will provide some wind protection for young seedlings.
The worms setting up home and turning them into soil for me.
Being able to plant directly into them in the future.
Extra organic matter for my soil.
Better soil structure.
I further enriched the soil in and around the baled with blood and bone and dynamic lifter and have planted out some brassicas and tomato's (another experiment).  The whole lot was then watered in with seaweed solution and left to its own devices.

Because I have two garden beds side by side and only one of them has the bale structure in it I will be able to measure the soil temperature and test to see if there is any difference.  I'll possibly forget to do it but hey i can if I want to.

Do you have any experiments happening at your place?

Monday, 21 May 2012

All Things Cheese

Last weekend I spent Saturday attending a cheese making workshop.  The workshop was run by Elisabeth Fekonia from Permaculture Realfood and covered cheese making basics, raw milk vs processed milk, lacto-fermented foods including, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut, and things such as cultures butter and yoghurt.
Over all I was very pleased with the course and I found it very educational.
We got to see the cheese that we would be making from scratch (and later having for lunch)
Elisabeth shared a lot of her knowledge and her experinces with cheese making and all things dairy.
 We started by making a brie
 The curds were spooned into baskets to drain.
 By the time we had lunch the curds had drained considerably.
Morning tea was sourdough piklets with cultured cream, ricotta and cottage cheese. Then we went back to the lesson and made a cheddar.  The curds are cut to release more of the whey.
 Then the cut curds were heated to release even more of the whey then spooned into a cheese hoop lined with butter muslin.
Once all the curds were in the hoop the cloth was folded over the top and second hop was pushed down on top.
The hoops were the put into a press and weights were added to the top.
 Then it was lunch time.
 We had sourdough, kimchi, cheeses, fermented fruits and vegetables and salad.
After lunch we learnt about kefir, yoghurt and cultured butter.  Many of the dairy products we tried were fermented and if this is not a taste you are used to then it can be a bit confronting to get you mind around the fact that the milk is not off.

Elisabeth had kefir grains and yoghurt for sale and I purchased some of each.
It was a great day out and I learnt a lot.  I am not sure if it just me but some of the flavours of the fermented foods we tried were a bit challenging.  I have now been drinking my milk kefir for a week and I am sure it is just that my pallet is not used to these new flavours as I am not noticing it so much any more.

Do you have any experience with fermented foods?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Welcome and Hello

On Friday the lovely Rhonda over at Down to Earth mentioned my blog in her weekend reading.

So if you have dropped by from there or are new then a very big welcome, stay a while and have a look around.

I would love it if you could leave a comment and introduce yourself so that in return I can get to know you a little better and visit your blog if you have one.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Sourdough Experiments - And Success

Until recently my sourdough baking has been a bit hit and miss but I have now achieved success so I'd like to share what I have learnt.

I have struggled to find a recipe, routine and method that suited our lifestyle.  It's the routine that I really believe is one of the most important factors when it comes to making sourdough.  
Our situation is that we do not yet have children and are not really big sandwich eaters.  
But if there is nice fresh bread on offer it is not going to last long and we generally like to have it for Sunday breakfast or lunch.  Between us we work nearly 100 hours a week and so getting all of these factors to work together had been a lot of trial and error.

One of the experiments that I did was to see if a second rise made any difference to the end loaf.  So I divided one batch of dough into 2 parts.  After kneading I set one to rise in the tin it would be baked in and the other to rise in a bowl.

After giving the one in the bowl a chance to rise in the bowl before shaping and rising again in the tin I baked them both.  And you know what, there was no difference.
So now I have employed a different method that makes just one loaf over a time frame that suits us.

On Saturday morning I feed my starter (his name is Elvis and he lives in my fridge) with 1 cup of water to 1 cup of flour and he goes back in the fridge.  

Feeding my starter is the only thing I do by measure, everything else I do by weight.
Saturday night I make the dough.

The Recipe

100gm Fed Starter
200gm Warm Water
350gm Flour
30gm Olive Oil
5gm Salt

The Method 

The method I use for kneading is from Dan Lepards book The Handmade Loaf which I would highly recommend reading.

Weigh flour and salt and pour into a mixing bowl.  Weigh all wet ingredients into a jug and give them a quick mix then pour them into the flour.
Mix using one hand till all of the flour is combined, it will be a very sticky dough.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel, wash your hands and leave for 15 minutes.
Oil a timber bread board and your hands with some extra olive oil and tip your now not so sticky dough out onto the board and knead the dough for about 30 seconds turning a 1/4 turn at each push.  Wash, dry and oil your bowl and put your dough back in the bowl and leave it for another 15 mins.
Knead again on your oiled board for another minute using the 1/4 turn method and by this time the dough will be smooth and elastic.  Put your dough back in the bowl and leave it for another 15 mins.
Knead one last time then shape into a oval and put in your oiled bread tin.
Cover with plastic wrap or put into a bread bag and put into the fridge and leave overnight.

Sunday morning I take the bread out of the fridge at 6am and put it some where warm.  At this time of the year that is near the fire.  Then I go back to bed for an hour or so with a book and a cuppa.
By 11am the bread is risen so I heat my oven to 240 degrees C.  Once the oven is hot the bread goes in for 15 mins.  Then I turn the oven down to 160 degrees C and bake for another 10 mins.

Removed from the oven and tip onto a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel.  It is best if you can resist cutting into the loaf for about half an hour.

This loaf turns out to have a lovely chewy texture and a soft crust.  So far I have only been making it with wheat flour but I am going to have a go at mixing it up with spelt this weekend.  I will let you know how it goes.


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Learning To Knit

Now if you are an experienced knitter then please do not inspect my knitting efforts too closely.

My mother in law has been teaching me to knit and so far I have knocked out a dishcloth knitted out of crochet cotton and have started one with a ball of 100% cotton.
I seems a bit strange saying ball of 100% cotton as the crochet cotton is 100% cotton too so how do I specify there is a difference?  I would have said it was ? ply but there was no such measure in the packaging.

The first one I knitted out of crochet cotton turned out  funny rectangle shape but works fine and the open weave means that it dries quickly.
I have been writing this for a few days and have now finished the second one and it came out nice and square and feels lovely and soft in the hand, not a dropped stitch in sight.
Well better go and cast on for another one.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A Product Review

This is the second time that I have blogged about a local product from Kin Kin Naturals.  

The first product of theirs that I blogged about was their dish washing liquid.  That was back at the start of October after using it for about a month, and I stand by what I said when I said it was a great product.  
We are still using that same bottle of dish washing liquid and there is about 1/8th to go, that's about 8 months so far.  
Now I don't want to deceive anyone here into thinking that I have some magic never ending bottle of dish washing liquid, as that is clearly not the case.  The truth is that we also have a dishwasher which we use once a day.  So as well as the load through the dishwasher we do one lot of dishes in the sink per day for the things that do not go in the dishwasher.  On top of that I often use a drop or two of dish washing liquid on my dishcloth to wipe the stove top, benches and on the cupboard doors.  
In the past I have gone through a lot more bottles in that same period of time so I know that spending that little bit more to buy the Kin Kin Naturals product works out cheaper in the long run, creates less waste and supports a family run local business.

The product I want to mention today is the other one of their products that we use in the kitchen, the dish washing powder.
We have tried a couple of other brands including Earths Choice tablets and 7th Generation Powder.  The Earths Choice worked out a lot more expensive as you would expect being in a tablet and although the 7th Generation powder was close in cost and as effective as the Kin Kin Naturals it is shipped all the way from North America so looses out on the carbon footprint by a long shot and is not supporting local business which is something that is really important to me.
The Kin Kin Naturals dishwasher powder advises that it will do approximately 70 washes but I am sure you get a few more that that as we have been using our current bottle since the end of February and are about to use the last of it in the next few days. 
I have a bit of email correspondence with Felix the owner of the company and asked about other products they are looking at doing in the future and I have also made suggestions about the things that I would like to see in their range such as refill bags for the dishwasher powder and dish washing liquid and a toilet cleaner.   Felix has always responded with enthusiasm to my feedback and suggestions and he has even asked for my opinion on packaging in return.  They have recently expanded their range to include an oxygen whitener so I will be including that on my "products to try" list when I next need some.

I would like to stress that I have no affiliation with Kin Kin Naturals and not received payment for my opinion.  I am just a regular consumer who is happy to be able to give a bit of a plug to a locally made product that I am happy to use.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Guiness World Record?

Could this be the worlds smallest chicken egg?

I reckon it must be close since on the internet the record of the smallest chicken egg that I could find is
2.7 cm.  And at 14 grams that is pretty small.  I wonder if there is any speck of yolk?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Supporting a Fellow Blogger

Throughout Australia many people live with disability or support those who do.  You may not currently be one of these people but at any time your life could change and you or someone you love could be affected.
Across Australia there are young people living in nursing homes due to a lack of care facilities for them.  There are disabled children going without equipment they require to have a good quality life, and then there are others like Linda from the Greenhaven Good Life who have to fight to get the support they need for their children.

This is unacceptable.

Both sides of parliament have said they will support a scheme reform to the way services are funded and delivered.  It is a social reform on the scale of the introduction of Medicare and compulsory superannuation – two safety nets now taken for granted by every Australian.

This marks a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix the crisis in disability through the funding of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). But all of us need to hold this government and/or the next one to this promise to ensure that those members of our community who need this scheme get the help they deserve.

So how can you help?

First of all you can sign up on the Every Australian Counts website by joining the campaign.  It takes less than 2 minutes and shows that you believe in the neccesity of this scheme.
Secondly you can tell the people you know and get them to sign up too.

Remember that at any time you or someone you love could sudenly need this scheme and the support it offers.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Milky Goodness

This week we were able to get our hands on some good old raw milk from a local dairy factory.
Mmmmm Delicious!
And the best bit is that we should be able to get it on a regular basis.
This will really come in handy as this weekend I am off to do an all day cheese making workshop.
I have been looking forward to this for ages as I was given a cheese making kit for Christmas and really want to get some tips before I set out on my own.
I will be taking some photos and will post about my experience.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Slow Living April 2012

Linking up with Christine again this month although I am running a little behind but hey that happens sometimes.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
 There has been a lot of bread making this month as well as pesto and big batches of muffins divided into small portions and frozen.  We have been eating the last of the cucumbers from the garden as well as lots and lots of eggs.

Prepare - Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season.
I have been blanching the last of the beans and freezing them for over winter. Plus there are the extra muffins mentioned above

Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
We have been finding old pavers all over our property since we moved in and in the last month we have been collecting them all up and storing them for future use.  We have a plan for them but I will share that once it is under way.

Green Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.
April saw me invest in a new bicycle and I have been getting out and about on it taking our dog for a run which is great for my health and hers.  I also made up another batch of liquid soap and had my first go at making soap from scratch.
Chewed Cabbages

Untouched kohlrabi
Grow plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? 
It has all been about winter veg this month.  We have such a short winter that you have to get things going while it is still warm.  This unfortunately meant the caterpillars make a feast of some of the first round.  It is interesting though that they are very interested in my cabbages but not so much the kohlrabi and they are planted right next to each other.
There have been a few summer veg fruiting here and there, the odd cucumber, capsicum and eggplant.  And I have been eating the odd raspberry and fig too.
And we have just harvest our first bunch of bananas ever.
 Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
 I participated in the Apron Swap this month and I have also been learning how to knit again.  I am making a dish cloth first of all since it will not matter too much if I drop a stitch here and there, so far only 2.
Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
I have been reading "The hand made loaf" by Dan Lepard and it has been such a joy.  I think I will need to get a copy of my own.

Enhance Community
I had another go at entering the local show this year and I also helped out as a steward which was very informative and will help me with my future entries to know what it is the judges are looking for.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment.
This was all about people this month.  We caught up with people we had not seen in ages, far far too long in fact, so it was nice to be able to establish that great connection again.  We also had family stay at Easter which was loads of fun, a bunch of 30 some thing's having a few drinks listening to music, playing board games and doing some gardening.  Quality time without a doubt.

Apron Swap

This year one of my goals was to work on improving my sewing skills so when an apron swap was organised by Rhonda's side kick Sharon over at Down to Earth I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to have a go.
I was buddied up with the lovely and thoughtful Debbie.
So I thought I would share with you the beautiful apron that Debbie made for me and the one I made her.

Debbie made me this lovely pale blue linen apron with some vintage print fabric across the top.  It is something that I am sure will last me for a long time and I will get a lot of use from.
The apron Debbie made me
(Pinned to the mozzie net was the best way to display it)
Vintage print neckline
And this in the one that I made for Debbie.
I like to mix patterns and stripes
I love the cute little birds on the fabric.

Did you participate in the swap?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Common Sense Out The Window

So on the weekend I made a batch of soap.  This is a first for me as I have not made soap before but I have been keen to have a go for a while.
The soap seemed to turn out ok and I have left it to cure so I will wait and see how it turns out in a few weeks.

So if it wasn't an issue with the soap at what point did my brain go to sleep?

That would be when I put my silicone soap moulds in the dishwasher....doh!
Turn head to the right...
Yep I was so distracted by the foam spilling out of the
dishwasher I forgot which way up I had the camera
What a foamy mess.
Thankfully I keep a spray bottle of vinegar for cleaning under the sink and a few sprays of the vinegar dissolved all the bubbles and neutralised all the soap.

Whoops I won't make that mistake again, but lets just say I had very clean dishes.