Monday, 29 June 2015

Date Loaf

This recipe is an oldie but a goodie.  It is something I remember my mum cooking for us when we were kids and when I found some quite old and dry looking dates in the pantry I decided to turn them into this loaf.  The recipe calls for walnuts which work really well as they are quite bitter and make a nice contrast to the sweet loaf.  I used 50/50 walnuts and almonds as I did not have enough walnuts and the almonds still worked well.  I doubled this recipe and froze one. loaf and they freeze well

Date Loaf

1 Cup of Chopped Dates
1 Cup of Boiling Water
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tbs Butter
3/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 Beaten Egg
1 Cup of chopped Walnuts
2 Cups Plain Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder

Put your dates, butter, baking soda and water into a large bowl and stir until the butter is melted and then set aside  for 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees c and grease a 22 cm loaf tin.
Beat your sugar, egg and walnuts into the date mix and the sift in the flour and baking powder stirring until just combined.
Pour into your loaf tin and bake for 35 - 45 mins.
When cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning onto a cooling rack.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Lots Going On Around Here

My blogging schedule has been under a bit of pressure this month but that is not to say there has not been a lot going on.

We have been having a lot of house inspections so we hope that this will shortly lead to a contract but are not getting our hopes up too much.  Because we have had to be out of the house most weekends for these inspections we have had a couple of weekends away camping.  On the June long weekend we spent 3 days camping and had friends join us for one night which was a lovely catch up.  Then last weekend we went camping again by ourselves just to relax.

I have also started my University study and needless to say that having not studied since 2001 it is challenging my brain to get back into that mode of operation.  I am currently undertaking a 2 week prep course that focuses on academic writing which I am so glad I signed up for as the rules around academic writing are very specific and being able to write well will ensure I do well in my studies.

Although we are really just keeping the house and gardens tidy and not adding to them we have had to spend a bit of time out in the garden.  We have had a very mild and wet winter so far which is not at all normal for us at this time of the year.  This has resulted in the weeds taking over every little space they can find.  Today we pulled out half a wheelbarrow of weeds and all the rain meant they were easy to get out.  With the shortest day of the year now behind us we are on our way back towards summer but I still expect that we will have some cooler weather ahead of us.

With the couple of weekends away camping I have read some great books and have picked up my crochet hook again too.  I am working on a large blanket and so far I have a knee rug so it is progressing nicely.

I have not had a lot of time to read your blogs and leave comments but please know I am reading when I can even if I am not leaving comments.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Added Calcium For Your Chickens

If you have chickens then you are probably well aware that they need a good supply of calcium so that the shells of their eggs remain strong.  If chickens do not have access to enough to calcium they will actually use the calcium from their bodies.

Many people confuse grit and calcium and it is important to know what you are providing for your birds.
Some grit is insoluble which means it is not broken down by the chickens digestive system and sits in the gizzard to help break down food particles.  If your chickens free range then you may not need to provide this as they can pick up their own from the ground.
You can also buy soluble grit that is often crushed shells and provides chickens with a good source of calcium.

Our chickens free range so our only concern is to provide adequate calcium ( our soil is very low in calcium) and I like to do this by recycling all the egg shells back to them.
When using eggs I place all of the shells in a small oven tray and if it is winter I sit the tray on top of the fire place and the rest of the year I place the tray in the oven.  I like to dry the shells out completely so that there are no soft patches of egg white left on the inside of the shell.

Once they are dry I crush them to a fine powder in my mortar and pestle.

I then store all my crushed egg shells in a container and mix a few table spoons into their layers mash every few days.

This this method costs me nothing, we rarely have eggs with thin or soft shells and the egg shells have another use passing through the chicken and then going into the compost.  

Do you feed our egg shells to your chickens?
How do you ensure they get enough calcium?

Friday, 19 June 2015

It's Yellow Season

It's Yellow Season around here with Mini Capsicums, Lemons, Quinces and Tahitian Limes all producing well in the garden.

What colour season is it at your place?

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Eggplant Sambal

Have you got anything that you are growing out of season?

We are still harvesting quite a few eggplants at the moment (they don't know it's Winter and I'm not telling).
Rather than use them as a vegetable all the time I also like to turn them into this Indian inspired dip.
It is fresh and tangy and makes a great side to curry and rice instead of the standard raita and it really nice to dip carrot sticks and celery into.

Eggplant Sambal

500 gm Eggplant
1/2 Tbs Oil
1/2 Tsp Ground Turmeric
3 Tbs Lime Juice
2 Long Red Chillies, de-seeded, de-veined and finely diced
1 Small Red Onion finely diced
4 Tbs Thick Plain Yogurt

Preheat your over to 200 degree celcius.
If using large egg plants cut into quarters length ways and if using small egg plants just cut in half. Brush the cut sides with oil and sprinkle with the ground turmeric then bake for 30 mins or until very soft.
Scoop out the eggplant flesh into a bowl and allow to cool.  When cool mash into a pulp with the lime juice, chilli and onion.  Season with salt and fold in the yogurt.  Garnish with coriander and serve.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Where Does Your Food Come From?

So where does your food come from?
Do you know?
Do you care?

Way back in 2011 I posted about buying local and how I am a label reader and I choose what I buy based on where a product comes from and where it is produced.
We are lucky to have our own meat and a decent veggie garden.  We also have a fantastic green grocer who stocks almost entirely Australian grown produce along with local cheeses, small goods and deli items.  
But there are still items that we buy and I like to know how far it has traveled to get to me, if it is fair trade.  
I also try and avoid some products, from countries like China and Vietnam, where I have concerns that the air pollution, farming methods and environmental impacts do not meet my ethics.
I also try and avoid some ingredients like palm oil, regardless of if it is claimed to be sustainable.

Sadly the labeling in Australia does not always make this easy.

However this may be set to change with the government undertaking a consultation process in to Country of Origin Labeling.  This consultation involves a community survey to find out what the public want so please take the time (less than 5 minutes) to complete the survey and let the government know how you feel.

You can also visit the below websites to read up on what else relating to food is going on in Australia

Australian Made Website 
- Lots of information about reasons to buy Australian made 
- A search function so you can find the brands of a particular product that are Australian made.
- Competitions
- Links to great Australian Companies

Aus Food News
- Food News from Australia and around the world
- News on manufacturing in Australia

Dick Smith Foods
- Products and stockists
- Recipes
- Dicks Blog
- News about food issues that affect Australia

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Easy Sauce-less Pasta

I know that sauce-less pasta sounds very strange but if you use good quality pasta, preferable home made, then the ingredients themselves pack enough flavour when combined with the olive oil to make a delicious dish.  You can substitute the vegetables for what ever is in season or in your garden, add olives or capers or but it really needs the fresh tomatoes to add some liquid and herbs to give it punch.

For this version of my sauce-less pasta I used what I had on hand baby yellow zucchini and basil from the garden, grape tomatoes, onion, panchetta, chilli, olive oil and home made pasta.  The below recipe is not quantity specific but the amounts I mention made enough pasta for 4 serves.  If you want a vegetarian version just leave out the panchetta.

Easy Sauce-less Pasta

Fresh Pasta for 4 people
4 Slices of Panchetta (Optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Punnet of Cherry/Grape Tomatoes
1 Brown Onion
1 Clove of Garlic
1 Red Chilli
5 Baby Yellow Zucchini
2 Handfuls of Basil Leaves (A few leaves set aside to garnish)
Salt and Pepper
Grated Parmesan

In a large dry fry pan place your panchetta slices and then heat from cold to a medium heat cooking your panchetta till it is brown and starting to turn crunchy.  Once done drain on a paper towel.
Get a large pot of salted water on to boil.
Leave any oil that had come out of the panchetta in the pan and add 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and your finely diced onion.  Cook stirring often until the onion is soft.  When the onion is soft add the crushed garlic  and finely diced chilli and stir it through the onion.
Slice your zucchini into rounds and halve your cherry tomatoes and add them to the pan  and stir through and every minute or so for the next 4 minutes so that the tomatoes release some of their juice.  Do this at the same time as you get your pasta in the boiling water.
My pasta takes 6 minutes to cook from fresh and when there is 1 minute left I add the basil leaves and stir them through so they are wilted.
Before you drain your pasta take 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta waster and add it to your fry pan of veggies stirring it through.  Add a good grind of pepper and salt to taste.
Stir through your drained pasta and serve with a garnish of fresh basil and grated parmesan.

This is my favourite way to have pasta and always turns out a bit differently every time I make it as I use different ingredients (just adjust the cooking time accordingly).
Mushrooms and capsicums go really well and you can add olives and capers too. This makes a nice alternative to pasta covered in tomato sauce and this allows you to taste the pasta which is important when it is fresh and home made.

What is your favourite type of pasta and way of cooking it?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Monthly Nine - May

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.  Linda our wonderful host has been really busy so pop over and check out what she has been up to and join in and share what has been going on in your world over the past month.

Here is what we have been up to over the month of May.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
May saw a lot of action in the kitchen.  I made another batch of pasta with our eggs and this time I got hubby to help with the cutting stage.  He is not really a fan of doing the cooking but he is always happy to help with the filling the bottles and putting the lids on stage of preserving, folding the wontons and separating the pasta strands so they do not clump together.  On the night we made the pasta we enjoyed sauceless pasta which is so tasty and easy to make (I will post the recipe soon).

There have also been lots of beef dishes over the month as we work through all of the beef we have.

And since it is pumpkin season I am trying to find new ways to make use of them.

In May I made my first batch of Camembert Cheese.  It all seems to have gone well except for the fact that the mold rind seems to have separated from the cheese inside.

You can see the rind peeling away from the edge.
The cheeses are now all wrapped up and ripening in the fridge.  We are looking forward to taste testing them soon.  If anyone has thoughts about why the rind might peel away please let me know.

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 done one more batch of dehydrated capsicums, made two jars of pickled jalepenos and since it is lemon season I have made a jar of preserved lemons.

I have 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.

I replaced the freezer seal at the end of the month and the bags to the Op Shops have slowed but I am sure we will find more things to send along.

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.

Grow plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden?

There are spring onions, mini capsicum, as well as lettuce and silverbeet too. There are a couple of eggplants on the bush that is now more than 2 years old and a few coming on on the other plant. The egg production has slowed which is normal at this time of year but I am looking forward to when it picks up again.
We have heaps of herbs going and I have both thyme and sage going well and ready to use as a cold remedy should one hit. 

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.
I have been reading lots off fiction over the past month and I also put in an order from my local library to borrow books from the state library.  The books all arrived at the end of the month so now I have lots to read in the month of June.

Enhance Community
We have recently had some friends return to our area after living away and it is wonderful to be able to see them again on a regular basis.
I have found myself pulling away from some community activities lately as I know that we will be moving away in the future.  I have decided that I need to dedicate my time to building relationships in my future community and so have been getting in contact with community groups and our future neighbours in New Zealand instead.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment.
Hubby and I recently took our bikes and Jessie to Brisbane and cycled from New Farm Park along the Riverwalk and over the Goodwill bridge to South Bank where we had lunch and a rest.
The Riverwalk was damaged during the 2011 floods and has only recently been rebuilt.  It is such an amazing access route for pedestrians and it runs for many kilometers through the city.  We had amazing weather on the day we were there and Jessie who loves to run was really well behaved but was getting pretty tired towards the end of the ride back.  I think we covered about 
20 kms in total but since it is all flat it was not too much effort.

Picnic lunch at South Bank

This is me taking photos while I was riding.  The contents of my basket consisted of
Camera bag, dog bowl, cotton shopping bag plastic doggy bags and underneath is my wallet and phone.

What have you been up to?

Monday, 1 June 2015

Replacing A Freezer Seal - A Lesson Learnt

I have learnt a valuable lesson this week.  Do not ask a trades person for help before you have fully investigated the extent of the issue and complexity of doing it yourself.

One of the chest freezers that we have has a split and bent freezer seal.  And because there is air creeping under the seal there is mold and the freezer is icing up in places.

You can see that the seal was all bent over and moldy.

So I called our local fridge guy and asked about him replacing the seal for us.  He asked for the model number and make and advised he would get back to us once the new seal had arrived.  So we waited.  And waited

I live in the country near a small town and like many small towns some of the businesses struggle to survive.  So it is infuriating that while some businesses offer fantastic service and work really hard to stay in business, there are others that make no effort to call you back, turn up, follow up and even make up lies in the hope of fobbing you off.

Yep that is pretty much what happened.  We made calls that were not returned, we waited around for appointments that no one turned up for and then we were told that they were having trouble getting the part but that they would keep chasing it up for me.  The email I got back in March read as follows.

Hi Fiona, I have negative response with regard in getting your seal,today I have had another go at getting your seal and this time have received a favourable response from Hysense , they are closed today, but have given me details of who to contact tomorrow. 

And still we waited.  And still would be if I had not taken matters into my own hands.

I called the manufacturer and asked about the possibility of getting a new seal direct from them.  The answer was a simple yes and for just $22 plus $20 postage (as it had to be sent by courier) paid for on the call.  All done in five minutes.

One week later the seal was delivered to my door and it was time to replace the seal.

When I unpacked the seal it was a bit bent as it had been folded inside the box.  So I laid it out in the sun to soften the plastic and then returned to the freezer to remove the old one and clean it all up.

When it came to removing the old seal I started at the corner and peeled it back slowly and to my joy I discovered that the seal was not glued in or fastened in any way to the freezer lid.  The seal was just pressed into a V shaped grove.  So I peeled out the seal and got on with the cleaning the lid and the top edge of the freezer where it seals.
After cleaning of all the mold I tried to dry the grove as best I could but it was hard to get a towel into the groove so I grabbed my hair dryer and used it instead.
Once I have the seal channel dried I pressed the new seal into place starting at a corner and working  out making sure that the seal was smooth and not caught up anywhere.

Once the seal was firmly pressed in I could see small areas where it was not sitting flush so knowing how plastic reacts to heat I used the hair dryer again.

You can see the small gaps around the top edge and where the seal was not smooth along the lid.
There was also a bit of a dent where the seal had been folded (on the right)
By running the hair dryer slowly around the edge the plastic softened and smoothed out and created a smooth seal against the lid.  I had to hold the hairdryer in place over the dents a bit to get them to soften and pop out but they eventually did. 

And to think I was going to pay someone to do this for me.

Now I know not every freezer seal would be this easy to replace as some models do not have a simple groove that the seal pushes into.  But my recommendation to all of you is to check out how the seal is attached to your fridge or freezer before you call a trades person into replace it for you because in some cases it is easy to replace yourself..

What have you discovered that you could replace/fix yourself?