Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Penang Beef And Coconut Curry With Peppercorns

We love curry and it does not matter what part of the world it comes from.  This is a Thai curry and it is not hot at all in fact in this dish the heat comes from the pepper not chilli although you can always add chilli on top like we do it you like a bit more heat.
You can use any cheap cut of beef for this dish and because it is cooked for a long time it will be amazingly tender.  It is important that you do not shake the coconut cream as you want to separate the cream from the milk.

Penang Beef And Coconut Curry With Peppercorns

1 x 400 ml Tin of Coconut Cream
500 g Diced Beef Shin/Blade/Chuck or other stewing cut
2 Tbs Red Curry Paste
2 Tbs Palm Sugar or raw sugar
1 Tbs Fish Sauce
1 x 55 g Tin of Green Peppercorns in Brine, drained and rinsed
8 Kafir Lime Leaves
4 Tbs Roasted Salted Peanuts, chopped
1/2 Cup Basil Leaves
1 Long Red Chilli (Optional)

Open the cocnut cream and spoon out the thick cream from the top and set aside in a bowl.  Pour the remaining coconut milk into a large saucepan and add your diced beef and a little water to cover if required.  Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours or until the beef is tender.
Allow the beef to then cool in the liquid.  

When the beef is cooked and cooled heat the remaining coconut cream in a wok over a medium heat until the oil starts to separate.  Add the curry paste and fry gently for 5 minutes the add the sugar fish sauce, half the peanuts, the kaffir lime leaves and beef.  Then add enough of the beef cooking liquid to make a thick sauce.
Simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes stirring every so often and then add the peppercorns, basil and finely sliced chilli.  As soon as the basil is wilted remove from the heat and serve over fluffy rice and garnish with the remaining peanuts.

This is a really easy curry to make and the pepper is a great change to the normal chilli heat that curries often have.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Pumpkin Chickpea and Panchetta Salad

It's pumpkin season and last week a friend gave us a 1/4 of a very large Queensland Blue pumpkin and I decided to make a warm salad with it.

I used panchetta but bacon would also work and for a vegetarian option it could also be left out or replaced by home made garlic croutons.
I get my panchetta sliced for me when I buy it so that it is not too thin.  It needs to be about half the thickness of a slice of bacon.  Because it packs a lot of punch you do not need very much of it which makes it quite a frugal option.  I purchased 8 slices and use 4 slices in this and 4 slices were left to be added to pasta and it cost me just over $2.

Pumpkin Chickpea and Pancheta Salad

1 kg Pumpkin cut into 1.5 cm cubes 
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic
4 Slices of Panchetta
1/2 Cup dried Chickpeas that have been cooked or 1 x 400 gm tin of Chickpeas
1 Cup of loosely packed Coriander


Salt and Pepper
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Clove of Garlic

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees then combine the pumpkin, first measure of olive oil and garlic in a large bowl and spread in a roasting tray and cook for 30 - 45 minutes or until cooked.  Cool until the pumpkin is just warm the start preparing the other elements.
Heat a fry pan up to a medium heat and fry your 4 slices of panchetta till browned then drain on a paper towel so they crisp up then when they are cool crumble the slices into small pieces  Remove the pan you fried off the panchetta in from the heat and add the chickpeas moving them around in the so that they warm slightly and pick up some of the panchetta flavour from the fat that has cooked out.
Whisk together your dressing and you are ready to assemble.

Reserve 1/2 the panchetta to sprinkle on at the end,  Combine all of the other ingredients gently in a bowl before adding the dressing and serving with the extra panchetta.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Changing The Way I Shop To Manage The Budget

I have previously posted about  how I use a small white board on the fridge to not only plan our meals each week but also our shopping.

In the past I have always just added items to the list as they ran out, as they were required for meals or as desired by the two of us.  The problem with this strategy is that I end up replacing things that I do not use that often and may not use again for a while.  This has meant that there have been some weeks where we spent more than we needed to get through the week.

So I have come up with a new strategy.
I have divided the shopping list into two sections. 'This Week' for the items needed for this weeks meals and 'Future' which is a list of items to be purchased in the future, that have been used up or are close to needing replacing.
This means that each week when I go shopping I am only buying what is required for that week yet I am not loosing track of what needs replacing.
If I know that the weeks shopping list is small and will not exceed our $50 budget I can add a few extra items off the 'Future' list.  Otherwise they will get purchased when they are actually needed for the weeks meals.

This week for main meals we are having:
Thai Beef Salad - Nothing needed as I substituted some of the ingredients for  others.
Devilled Sausages, potatoes and Broccoli (nothing required)
Spinach and Salmon Flan (nothing required)
Lamb Neck Casserole with Polenta (nothing required)
Chicken and Olive Tagine (tomatoes needed)
Pasta (tomatoes and tomato paste required)

So the food items on this weeks list were: tomatoes, tomato paste, bread, carrots, milk, cream, 00 flour, apples, peanuts and bananas.  Total spend $39.86

There are plenty of breakfast items on hand including cereal, toast and eggs.  For lunches Hubby takes leftovers plus carrots, apples and nuts and because I work from home I can have leftovers, salad, eggs on toast or what ever I feel like.

Our pantry is already bursting at the seams well stocked so we are in a really good place to be cutting back quite significantly on our grocery spend and I am looking forward to sharing with you some of the frugal meals I will be making.

What are you having this week?

Friday, 22 May 2015

Getting Tough On The Grocery Budget

As I mentioned yesterday I am in the process of making some changes to our budget to accommodate my changes in lifestyle (going back to Uni) and the reduction in my income, and one of the areas where I think I can make quite a bit of savings is the grocery budget.

Now for the purposes of this post our "grocery budget" includes all items purchased at the green grocer, supermarkets, markets and butcher but excludes dog food. 
As I have mentioned in my posts about beef we also have hundreds of kilos of beef to eat but we sometimes want a change so there is an occasional purchase of other types of protein.  I also work from home permanently and Hubby takes his lunch every day so there is almost zero spend outside of the "grocery budget" on other foodstuffs.

If I look back at our spending habits we have been spending between $70 and $120 (more often at the lower end of the scale) per week for the last few months.  Now while that is not a huge amount of money I believe that we can really cut back on that amount because we rarely need to purchase meat and have a bit going on in the garden.

We also have a well stocked pantry and when I say well stocked what I really mean is bursting at the seams.  
You see when you are bit of a mad keen foodie like me you tend to have ingredients from many different cultures and many types of a single product. Take vinegar for example I have at least ten different types....yep ten. But I do use them all and they do not go off.
However if I am honest there are a few spur of the moment purchased items that have been sitting in the pantry for a while and it is time they saw the light of day.

So where to from here.

Well I am going to set a maximum weekly budget of $50 and I am going to get very strict with my menu planning.
I have previously posted about how I menu plan using a small white board on my fridge and while I have been using this system for a long time I have often decided what we are eating then organised ingredients which means I often buy things just for that meal.

So from now on I am looking at:
What need using up?
What has been in the pantry for ages?
What do I have multiple of?
What is in the garden?
What can I substitute?

I will then plan our meals based on the minimum number of additional items I need to purchase.
Now while this makes perfect sense it is easy to fall in to bad habits when you are tired or rushed so I will also be making sure I have a good stockpile of prepared meals that can be heated up in just a few minutes.

Wontons can be made and frozen to have on hand for a tasty and quick meal

The other thing that I know is important to get the buy in of Hubby, is that there are enough "treats" or "not home made" things so that he does not feel deprived.  This means that I will buy an occasional bag of chips/crisps, cordial (yuck) and salted peanuts.

So each week I will be posting about my menu plan for the week and how much I spent.  I will also be posting recipes for fugal meals that make the most of what is in season and good value for money.

How much do you spend per person each week on groceries?
What tips and tricks do you use to stick to your budget?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

It's Time To Update The Budget

Do you budget?  What kind of budgeter are you?

By that I mean do you:

a) Plan out all of your spending, saving and commitments and then break these amounts down to fit into your pay cycle so that every pay a little bit is put away for all the different things?
b) Do you put away regular savings and then just pay you bills as they come along knowing that you generally earn more than you spend so it just works it's self out?
c) Do you live budget free?

Until I decided to go back to Uni I was definitely in category b)  
For me this meant that I put away regular amounts of savings, paid bills such as power, insurances, charity bequests and the mortgages by installments and just paid other large expenses like car registration, car servicing and holidays out of savings when they came along.  I also had no set budget for things like groceries, entertainment, gifts, celebrations or treats.
I used to know someone who used an envelope system and every week a little money would go into each envelope and would later be used to pay bills.  I tried this for a while but hated having lots of cash lying around.

Image result for budgeting

Combined with my decision to go back to Uni I have also elected to cut back my hours at work so this means if I want to be able to keep up with all of my savings and financial commitments I needed to look at my budget and make some changes.

To start with I downloaded the Excel version of this budget planner provided by the government.  It is easy to use and allows you to indervidualise it and gives you an ongoing tally of what is left each month.

I started by inputting all of my projected income (based on my reduced hours) and expenses to work out how much I was going to have to left or would be short by.
After doing some quick sums I knew that I had to cut some of my expenses.

These are some of the things I have done to reduce my expenses:
I cut a regular donation to a charity.  I have supported them for 5 years and I feel no guilt from stopping the payment now.
I have reviewed our insurances and have reduced out building and contents insurance sums insured as they have crept up.
I have reviewed our home phone plan.
I have not renewed one of my magazine subscriptions

We don't tend to go out a lot and our family only does gifts at Christmas time so I was not too worried about if I was overspending in these areas.
I do not have any credit card debt and have a good amount of savings (but I do not want to tap into this) so I still need to look at other ways of saving a few more dollars other wise I will have to reduce my savings.

One of the biggest revelations was when I reviewed all of our grocery receipts for the last few months and this looks like an area I can make a big saving, but more about that tomorrow.

So when/why did you last review your budget?
Do you have any great tips for reducing expenses?

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

So You Might Have Noticed...

So you might have noticed that the content on my blog has been a bit light on of late. 
If you haven't noticed it that's good, but I have certainly felt it.  

I have so many draft posts, about things I am passionate about, just sitting there waiting to be completed and many more running around in my head.  But life is just like that sometimes and the reality is that behind the scenes there has been an awful lot happening here.

The house is still on the market and not under contract and as we head into winter I suspect that the inspections will be few and far between and we could be here for some time yet.
While it is great that we are under no pressure to sell we would just like to have it sold so we can move on with the next stage (albeit a transition stage) of our lives.  So here's hoping for another interest rate cut and more buyers wanting to live in the country.

Planning for our life in New Zealand is well underway and we are getting close to finalising our house plans.  This has been a long process and we have refined and scaled back from where we started but I think that we are almost there.  Now comes the scary part, getting a costing.
We have also been designing a shed for our property that will be built before the house and will give us somewhere to live, store our furniture from here and to store tools, building materials and second hand materials.  We hope to get the shed built before we move and it might even happen this year but we will see.

Because we do not know what the future holds and I want to keep moving my life in a forward direction I have made another big decision.  I am going to go to University.
I start studying in July working towards a degree in Psychology via distance, through Massey University in Palmerston North New Zealand, which is 20 minutes from our property there. 
I will still be working so I am only taking 2 classes in my first semester plus one over the summer school period.
I know that studying will take me in a new direction and I am really looking forward to the challenge although at the same time I am a bit nervous as well.
I have wanted to change my job for quite a while now but since we are going to be moving there is no point and I just need to suck it up and plough on through, plus I need to pay for my study as I want to limit the amount of debt I take on.

And finally Hubby and I are also at the point where we need to make another big decision that will have lasting impacts either way.
For the last 6 years we have been trying for a baby and to date we have had no success.  

We are now faced with the prospect of going down the IVF path and to be honest we are not sure that we are prepared to invest the additional time and the money, not to mention the emotional investment.  
I am 36 and Hubby is 39 and to be completely honest if we are not pregnant soon I think we will just get on with life.  
There is a big part of me that thinks we should just live the life God dealt us but other parts of me worries that if we do not give it a go we might regret it.

We are also conscious of the fact fact that our planet is already over populated and there are many kids out there who need a home, so perhaps if we do not have one of our own we will investigate other options.

So as you can see there has been lots happening behind the scenes.

If you have any thoughts about going down the IVF path vs dealing with what life has dealt us feel free to comment.  I am not overly sensitive about it so don't be afraid to speak your mind.

I hope to get a few of those posts out of my drafts folder soon too.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Beef Spare Ribs

Weekends are a great time to enjoy Beef Spare Ribs as they need long slow cooking to make sure they are melt in your mouth sticky goodness.  I start mine on Friday or Saturday night when I am getting dinner ready and they are ready for the next day.

It is pretty common to find pork ribs for sale but if you want to do beef ribs you will have to ask your butcher for them.  We are using beef ribs because that is what we have and it is one of the more unusual cuts we asked our butcher for when working out all the different cuts.

Beef ribs like pork ribs come with layers of meat sandwiched between layers of fat and when cooked slowly the fat renders out of the meat and melts basting the meat in flavour.  The can still have a bit of fat when done but the meat will be so tender that any left over fat will fall away from the meat.

I make a spice rub for my ribs consisting of 1tbs Crushed fennel seeds, 2 tsp smoked paprika,
1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tbs brown sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and the zest of an orange.  Mix all together and rub into the ribs then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours but over night is better.

On the day of baking heat your oven to 150 degrees and cook the ribs bone side down in a covered baking dish for 2 hours.  Then add 2 cups of apple or orange juice to the dish and cover again making sure the dish is well sealed and steam cannot escape.  Return to the oven for another 2 hours.

Once this time is up I remove from the oven and pour off all the liquid and put the ribs back in the oven uncovered to let them dry out for 15 minutes.  After that I use my home made BBQ sauce and brush it all over the ribs returning to the oven for 30 minutes brushing all over again with the BBQ sauce and giving them a final 15 minutes.

The ribs will now tender and sticky all at the same time and finger licking good.

Do you eat ribs?  Do you have a preferred method of cooking them?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Fat For Flavour

I am in my mid 30's and when I was a child my mum always kept a enamel mug of fat in the fridge that she used for cooking.  It was generally fat that had been drained off a roast and it was then used for other cooking.  I remember having bread fried in this fat as a treat some Sunday nights alongside grilled tomato, bacon or sausages and eggs.

While I have not eaten fried bread since then I do still use animal fat for cooking.  When we had our cow killed I requested all of the fat to be mince which I then rendered down.  I used some of the fat for soap making and I have a container in the freezer that I can use for cooking.  Because it has a slightly beefy flavor I do not use it with poultry (I save duck fat and chicken fat for this), fish or sweets but I use it instead of vegetable oil for other meats and strongly flavoured vegetable dishes.

When ever I am cooking something and there is a bit of fat left over or floating on the surface I strain it off and store it in the freezer in plastic containers.

If I cook duck I save the duck fat for cooking roast veggies or poultry. If I cook roast lamb I save the garlic and rosemary infused fat for cooking veggies or croutons and if there is lots of fat on the top of a curry I save it and use it as the oil when I make my next curry (we eat a lot of curry).

Labeling your fat ensures you use it in an appropriate future dish.

All the flavour from the previous curry are passed on to the next one.
By using the fat this way you add a whole extra layer of flavour to the next meal and you will not be spending money on vegetable oils or using them for the majority of your cooking which may not be good for your health.  

To read more about the health implications of vegetable oils you should check out David Gillespis book 'Toxic Oil' and you can check out his interview on the ABC here or read Liz's review of the book here.

Do you save and reuse oil?
What oils do you cook with?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Natural Insect Repellant

I am a mozzie magnet and if you want to keep the mozzies away just bring me along and you will be left well alone.

All summer I have been testing out different natural insect repellents and I can now share with you the two that I was extremely happy with because they worked really well and did not leave you feeling greasy or sticky.

I also tested one that I made following a recipe online that used witch hazel and essential oils which was also pretty good.

The first one that I really liked was Bug Another made by Biologika.  It is an organic spray that is made with essential oils, ethanol, aloe vera, coco glucoside, glycerine, xanthan gum and potassium sorbate.

It goes on in a lovely light mist, leaves you feeling like you have not sprayed anything on at all and smells amazing (almost good enough to wear as a perfume) with the combination of essential oils.  
It works really well and I even applied it to my face when we were camping as the mozzies were trying to bite my forehead.  It retails for $11.00 - $13.00 for 125ml and can be purchased online or at many health food stores.

The second insect repellent that I really like is the Outdoor Body Spray by Perfect Potion.  
While not certified organic the ingredient list is only essential oils, ethanol and water.  It also smells really nice but slightly more of citronella than the other oils.  Just like the Bug Another it also sprays on in a nice fine mist and leaves you feeling like you are not wearing anything at all.
It retails for $15.95 for 125 ml online and in store at Perfect Potion.

Both of these sprays are Australian made and I feel very happy that I have been able to find insect repellents that meet my physical and ethical needs.

The home made recipe I tried was just a combination of 120 ml of witch hazel, 120 ml of water and 50 drops of essential oils and then shake to blend.

You can use any essential oils but if you want insect repelling ones you should use a mix of the following:
Tea Tree
Lemon Grass

I made us a test batch (1/5th the size) and used citronella, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, and cedar.  I think getting the proportions of fragrance right will take a bit of fine tuning and for now I am happy to purchase one of the others.

Have you got a preferred insect repellent or home made recipe?

Disclaimer: The Perfect Potion Outdoor Body Spray was provided to me by Perfect Potion for testing but I have not been paid to endorse their product.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Easy Beef Wontons

With all the mince we have (36 kilos) from our cow  I am focused on all the different ways to use it to make frugal, tasty and interesting meals.

Wontons might seem like something that are complicated and not made in many non Asian households and while they are a little time consuming to make the are actually really easy and sooo tasty.  
This recipe can be made using any type of mince and I have used chicken and pork in the past but now that we have so much beef we are using what we have.

When we make these we do it together as it makes the job much quicker.  We share in prepping the mix and then we fill the wontons.  I love that we do these together and has been really good for Hubby to learn how to make them.

Beef Wontons  Makes 80

700 gm Beef Mince
4 Spring Onions Finely Sliced
Thumb Sized Piece of Ginger Peeled and Grated
Small Tin of Water Chestnuts Finely Diced
2 Tbs Soy Sauce
2 Tbs Sesame Oil
1 Tbs Shaoxing Chinese Cooking Wine (Optional)
2 Tbs Corn Flour
2 Packets of Wonton Wrappers

Mix all ingredients using you hands to make sure the mix is well combined and then use a teaspoon to fill the wrappers.

This is my method and may not be the traditional method of filling them but it is easy to do.
Before you start filling the wrapper set your self up with a small bowl of water and a tray to lay your wontons out on.

Peel off a wonton wrapper and lay on the palm of your hand.  Then take a teaspoon of mince mix and place it in the center of the wrapper.

Dip a couple of fingers in your bowl of water and wet 2 edges of the wonton wrapper.  Then fold the wrapper over to form a triangle shape pressing from the filling out on each side so you are not trapping air in the wonton and you are then pressing the outer edges together to seal.

Dampen your fingers again and moisten the triangle tips then fold them in to the center to form an envelope shape.

If you have any mix left over you can fry it as part of a stir fry steam them of freeze it for later.

I lay them all out on trays and freeze them.  Once frozen I transfer them to freezer bags and put them back in the freezer.
They make such a quick and easy meal and cook in 13 minutes from frozen and 8 minutes from fresh in boiling water.
Or you can add them to Asian broths and make a great soup.

Have/do you made/make wontons?

What is your method for folding?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Farewell Big Red

Big Red was our rooster and this week he went to chicken heaven.

We got him as a chick when we first moved here 6 years ago and he was a beautiful proud rooster with a lovely nature.  He never tried to attack us and he was easy to handle.

Big Red had not been his usual self for the last 2 days and was just not as active as he normally was but he was still coming out to the food dish so we gave all the water a good dose of apple cider vinegar and garlic and fed them a garlic worming mash filled with turmeric.  We were also going to dust the chickens again for mites the next day.

The next day all the hens were out and about and Big Red was no where to be seen and I found him in the chicken house sitting on the ground.  When I picked him up he was very dopey and then I discovered his rear end was covered in maggots.  Oh no fly strike.  We think it was partly due to all the wet weather and un-seasonally warm weather we have had but he must have had a dirty butt to attract the flies in the first place. Fly strike can happen very quickly (maggots hatch in 8 - 12 hours) so things can get out of control quickly.

I will not go into detail about fly strike but there is a good article here, but beware it contains pictures so if you are a bit squeamish be prepared to scroll past.

There are suggestions of washing out the wound and treating the chicken until it is healed but from the look of things it had gone beyond that and he was suffering.  So we decided to put him out of his misery which was hard (but the right decision) as he has been a member of our farmyard from day one.

We have checked all of the hens and they are all ok but I will be keeping a sharp eye out and doing a lot of looking at chicken butts for the next few weeks.

As much as this is not a good news story I think it is important to share because if it prevents the suffering of other chickens then that is a good thing.  We have never had this happen before but we will be on our guard from now on.

Have you ever experienced fly strike with your chickens?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Home Made Beef Stock - Why you should bother

Do you make your own stock?  

If you don't then I highly recommend you give it a go because it is really easy and a well made stock is highly nutritious and will contain the minerals from the bones, cartilage, marrow in a form that easy for your body to absorb and use.

When we had our cow killed we asked the butcher to provide us with all the bones for us and our dog Jessie as we want to use as much of her as possible.  I specifically asked for some meaty bones for stock making and I am sure you could ask any butcher to do this for you.

I make mine with the addition of some vinegar which when added during the cooking process helps the bones release minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium into the stock.
Gelatine when taken with food aids digestion as it is hydrophilic (it attracts liquid to it) allowing it to attract digestive juices to the food particles.

'Jewish Penicillin' (chicken broth) and fish head broth are both traditional foods and have been around for hundreds of years.

Stock can be used to inject flavour and nutrition into meals and has long been used in fine dining restaurants where the stock is infused with herbs/wine and reduced down to create delicious sauces.

The way to test if your stock contains good amounts of gelatin is to chill it.  Your stock should thicken if not turn completely to jelly.

I find it is easiest to make really big batches (between 5-8 litres) and freeze the stock in portions in the freezer so that I can add it to meals, use it as the base for soups.  This is my method for making beef stock and I do my chicken stock the same (unless I am making a clear Asian chicken stock which is done at a lower temperature and not allowed to boil).

Beef Stock

2 kg Meaty Beef Bones
4 Carrots
6 stalks of Celery
4 Onions
A Bunch of Parsley
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Place all the bones in a large roasting tray and place into a 180 degree oven and roast until the
bones are really really dark but not burnt.

Add carrots chopped into thirds (I used up old carrots that were in the fridge and were a bit past their best, they had a few spots on them so I peeled them) chopped celery, onions (which I do not even peel I just wash them) parsley and vinegar.

Cover with water (I use about 8 litres), bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 5 hours in a covered pot.

Once the stock is cooked and cooled I strain off the sock into large containers and chill in the fridge overnight.  I then give all of the meat, bones and veg left in the pot to the chickens.  And if you have never fed your chickens meat let me tell you they go crazy for it.  They also peck at the bones and in a couple of days you can go out and pick up the bones that have now been picked clean.

The next day the stock has set to a firm jelly with a thin layer of fat on the top.  I then use a sponn to remove the fat. 

Once the fat has been removed I measure the stock into takeaway containers and label them the they all go in the freezer.
By having the measures on the lid it makes it really easy to use ant the containers stack really well so they are space savers.

Do you have any tips for making a good stock?  What veggies do you use?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Monthly 9 - April 2015

Well here we are again and we are looking back and focusing on the 9 areas of simple living that Christine started back in 2012.  Here is what we have been up to over the month of April.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
While I did not post that often about food during April there was a lot of action in the kitchen.  I made the first soup of the season, a lovely roasted pumpkin soup from one of our home grown pumpkins that was just under ripe so the roasting helped bring out the flavour.

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.
There has been a bit of stockpiling going on and the dehydrator has been getting a good work out.  I managed to pick up some capsicums on special so they got dried and stored for winter when I know capsicums will be more than double in price compared to now.  We also dried a heap of apples for hubby to take for snacks at work.

In addition to the dried foods I have also baked Chocolate Crunchies and packed small batches away in the freezer so they are on hand for when needed, and packed away lots of left overs to be reheated for quick and easy meals.

Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
We are still sending a bag a week to the op shop.  I now find myself looking around the house for items that can be added to that weeks bag.  Just when you think you have cleaned everything out you find a few more things that are no longer needed.

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.
Not much to report in this area for April but I did make some sage and thyme tea a few times a day for a few days which dealt with a sore throat I had.

Grow plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden?
The garden is producing hedges of basil and the latest round of cucumbers are producing well and I made some lactofermented dill pickles in April. There are spring onions, mini capsicum, as well as lettuce and silverbeet too.  And I am still getting the odd eggplant off the bush that is now more than 2 years old. The egg production has slowed which is normal at this time of year and a number of the girls have just finished their moult.  Normally we would add a couple of point of lays at this time each year to keep up the eggs production but since we are hoping to sell soon it is not practical to do that this year. 

Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
There was no creating in April which is a bit sad but that is what happens when you are busy.

Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
April was a great month for reading and I read a stack of fiction books a range of magazines and I did quite a bit of reading and internet trawling for information that relates to our move to NZ.

Enhance Community
The past month has seen us trading cucumbers, eggs and herbs for chillies, pumpkin and feeding the chickens.  We have built some great friendships in this community strangely mostly with people in our parents age group.  But these friends have been great mentors and support networks for us and despite the age difference we have formed strong bonds.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment.
We had a reason to celebrate in April with the return of my youngest brother and his partner, returning from Korea where they are currently living, for a holiday.  We could only catch up with them for lunch on one day but it was a long lunch and since we skype most weeks we just enjoyed the face to face catch up more than anything.

I also went to see the musical 'Wicked'.  I went by myself but was blessed to have my best friend come to lunch first then drop me off and pick me up after the show which save me all the expensive parking at the theatre.

What have you been up to?

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Weekend Kitchen And Using Our Christmas Gift

Over the weekend there were a few things going on in the kitchen.

One of the longer jobs I tackled was making some Camembert Cheese.  It is not a recipe that I have tried before but so far things are looking really good and as you can see from the photo below the yield from 8 litres of milk is pretty good.  I currently have the cheeses set aside ripening and once they have had time to mature and I have taste tested them I will give you an update.

I have made 2 small and one large round so I can compare the flavour.
The big one has a flat side as it got got pressed up against the side of the
container.  I am sure the flavour will be fine.

I also baked a Madeira cake which brought back so many memories of my child hood.  Madeira cake was my Grandads favourite and my granny used to bake them on a regular basis for him.  When ever we visited it was a treat to have some of 'Grandads Cake'.  I did not realise it was so easy and there are no fancy ingredients so it was done in no time at all.  In case you have never tried Madeira I have posted the recipe below.

And on Sunday we finally got to use our Christmas gift to each other of tickets to the latest Cirque Du Soleil 'Totem'  It was as usual (we have been twice before) and amazing show.  The skill of the acrobats was amazing and had us hooked from the second the show started.  If you ever get to go to one of their shows it is so worth it.

Maderia Cake

175 g Butter, Softened
3/4 Cups of Sugar
1/4 Tsp Grated Lemon Rind
1/4 Cup Milk
3 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder

Line a 20cm square baking tin and heat your oven to 180 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then stir in the lemon rind.  Mix in the sifted flour and baking powder and the milk until combined.  In a separate bowl beat the eggs until thick.  Add to the creamed mixture in 4 equal amounts folding each portion in so that the cake mix becomes looser and wetter.
Spoon into your cake tin and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched lightly.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out on a wire rack.

What did you get up to  over the weekend?
Have you ever been to a Cirque Du Soleil show?