Thursday, February 23, 2012

my garden - today feb 2012

Today I offer a photo post documenting my garden as it is right now. 
It is late summer in southern Australia and my garden is overflowing with growth.
This is my garden today.

Dahlias and roses.

Hydrangeas, japanese plum and balm of gilead.

Potted tomatoes along the path.

Corn and squash bed.

Thornless blackberries.
Ripening blackberries.

The soon to be chicken run and shed.

Climbing beans, broccoli, beetroot and spinach.

Covered strawberry beds.

Corn bed.

Covered tomato bed.

Espalier apple.

Another apple.

Espalier pear.


Myer lemon.

We are aiming to supplement our bought produce with that grown at home.  I don't think we will ever be self-sufficient with our fresh produce but that won't stop us from growing as much of it at home as we can!! 

As well as being organic and fresh it is heaps of fun to see something growing and then to pick and eat it. 

The kids love grazing in the garden too.  They eat heaps of raw fruit and veg during the growing season and that has to be a good thing!

How is you garden growing right now?  What are you picking?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

wychwood - an inspirational garden

Last week, Mum, my two littlies and I happened upon Wychwood garden.  We were on our way to Deloraine via Sheffield and Paradise, when we passed the turn off to Wychwood. 

I had been to the garden a long time ago and remembered how wonderful it was.  It has been the inspiration for my current garden in so many ways.  I just love the espaliered fruit trees, the beautiful gates and the low fences.  It is well worth a visit if you are visiting Tassie in the Mole Creek area.  It took so much effort to narrow down the photos I took to just these.  Every where I looked was something I wanted to record and remember!!  They have chickens, a creek at the bottom of the garden, birch trees and lovely seating!  So here they are, the pics from Wychwood.

Do you have a garden you take your inspiration from?  What is it you love about it?

yoghurt caramel sauce - a recipe

This recipe adaptation happened just by accident... as the best creations sometimes do!! 

I had made pear galettes with some freebie pears and had leftover juice from lightly cooking the pears.  I added butter and brown sugar to the pan with the juice and cooked it until reduced and caramelised.  I had no cream in the fridge but I did have some plain yoghurt.  I added a couple of tablespoons to the slightly cooled caramel and stirred it smooth. 

It turned out great.  Slightly tangy, very caramel and so smooth!!  And I had everything I needed already at hand!

The galettes were just as easy to put together.  A galette is just another name for an open fruit pie.  Into a greased pie dish or cake tin, press one square of pre made, defrosted puff pastry.  Cut off any over hanging excess pastry.

Slice pears into thin wedges.  Lightly cook in a large frypan in a little butter, brown sugar and water until just starting to soften.  Divide pears onto the prepared pastries, reserve juices in pan.  Spread pears evenly in the tins.  Cook at 200degC until brown and puffed.  Cool and remove from pan.  Serve with caramel sauce and maybe icecream or cream!! 

I didn't promise this was a healthy everyday dessert, but it was very easy and made use of things I already had.

And in an effort to keep things real and for full disclosure, the above pics are not how I served this dish to my family.  This is how they saw it plated!!


Still looks good, right??  My kids thought so!

What's your latest kitchen creation?

Linking to Friday Food Flicks,

Sunday, February 19, 2012

apple cordial - a recipe

As regular readers will know, I made apple butter recently.  Apple butter is good but wasting the huge quantity of off cuts is not, so what to do???  Make cordial or syrup is what.  I feel good not throwing away good food and we get a refreshing, flavoursome cordial, with nothing artificial added.  Everyone wins!!

Here's how I did it.

Put apple peels and cores into a big saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to boil.  I added whole (native Tasmanian) pepperberries and whole cloves.  Simmer until apples have pulped.  You may need to add more water.

Strain through muslin cloth into a large bowl.
Do not squeeze the cloth to get the liquid out.  The liquid will be very cloudy if you do.  Just be patient and let it drip on it's own!!
Prepare your bottles or jars.  Wash and heat.
Return strained liquid to the clean saucepan and simmer with enough sugar to sweeten and the juice of a few lemons.  I think it needs the balance of sour lemon to give the sweet apple flavour depth.  Simmer until syrupy.  Pour into bottles, leave to cool at room temp and then store in fridge. 

This recipe has no long term keeping qualities, so will need to be stored in the fridge and consumed within a couple of weeks.

My kids like the cordial served with sparkling water.  I love it as a mixer with gin!!  Everyone is happy!! *wink*

Have you made fruit cordials?  How do you do it?

Linking to Fat Tuesday

Saturday, February 18, 2012

passata di pomodoro - a recipe

Late summer is a busy time in the kitchen, with all the excess garden produce that needs to be dealt with.  I seem to be making, cooking, bottling... every day!  But it is worth the effort when I pull something yummy from the freezer or pantry later.

Today's kitchen adventure began with a box of gifted tomatoes from a friend of mums.  They arrived on her doorstep while she was away for a couple of days so I decided to process them all and have them ready on her return. 

Something easy to do with little hands on time is a basic tomato pasta sauce or passata di pomodoro.  All up about 30min processing time and then stirring every so often.  I freeze this sauce in meal lots and can do heaps of variations with it later.  It can become a base for lasagne, shepherds pie, tomato soup, spaghetti bolognaise, pizza sauce or anywhere you would otherwise use tinned tomatoes or tinned pasta sauce.

Wash tomatoes in sink.  Cut out green stem and any bad bits.
 Pulse in food processor until... looks like this.  Pulse a couple of onions and maybe some garlic too.
Throw all into large pots and simmer on very low, for a couple of hours, until liquid is reduced.  Add seasonings according to your end use, italian herbs, salt, pepper...
Cool overnight in fridge. 

Pack into freezer containers in meal sized lots.  I packed mine into snap lock sandwich bags and fit about 700g in each.
Label well with food name and date made.  (This is the step I always miss and then have heaps of mystery packs months later!!)

Enjoy homegrown tomatoes in your winter meals.

Do you have excess tomatoes to preserve?  What do you do with them?

Linking to Thirty Handmade Days and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways. and Butter Believer and Fat Tuesday
Check out the great ideas to be found there too.

Friday, February 17, 2012

green goals for 2012

Well it has been some time coming but here is my list of green goals for 2012. 
It follows on from my post on one word 365 - sustainable,
where I write about the things we have already done in our journey toward being
a sustainable family.

- make my own bread daily  weekly, lets try regularly
- bake snack bars, biscuits and cakes twice a week, no store bought baked goods on a regular basis **
- reduce reliance on convenience frozen food items and replace with home made freezer meals
- stock up on home made, ready to eat freezer meals (well labeled)
- use slow cooker more **
- pre pack freezer meal bases for slow cooker like here.
- use less plastic in lunch bags, use plastic containers instead **
- reduce reliance on supermarket products; household cleaning, personal care **
- pack a lunch bag for everybody (including me!) every week day **
- preserve (bottle, freeze, dehydrate) excess garden produce and low cost local foods in season
- purchase an Excalibur dehydrator
- eat more fish, at least one planned meal per week
- eat more no-meat meals **
- menu plan through the holidays as well as through the school terms
- make water kefir, milk kefir and kombucha (gribork)
- try lacto fermenting to preserve foods **

- finish chicken shed and enclosure
- get chickens, for eggs and meat, before autumn
- develop our edible garden; increase varieties grown, expand land area, improve set out
- set up low maintanance watering system for garden
- set up worm farm again

- try using a shampoo bar for family hair cleansing **
- make own soap, deodorant and shampoo bars **
- stop chemical colouring my hair and investigate alternatives to cover? the greys **
- install double glazing and reclad house for thermal and sound insulation
- implement a financial budget with an aim to reducing spending overall
- hand make the majority of kids birthday and xmas gifts, pinterest board here
- purchase another menstrual cup **
- return to (almost) full time use of cloth nappies at home (I use Pea Pods)

This looks to be a big list, but lots of these things I have started or am doing already. (**)
I'll revisit this list from time to time this year and see how we are doing!!

What are your goals for this year??

Linking to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

apple butter - a recipe

Apple butter is delicious!  If you have not made it at home, you should, especially if you own a slow cooker.  Easy... and delicious!!  We think it will mainly be used for topping porridge, spreading on toast or being the bottom for fruit bottom yoghurt.  Either way, yummy.

What follows is not really a recipe as such, but a how-to guide.  It does depend on the size of your slow cooker and how tart and how jucy the apples are.  This is what I did.

Peel and core apples.  These are the first apples of the season off our trees!!
I used my fancy peeler that sucks to the bench.  I wind the handle and the apple is peeled and cored.  It cost me about $20 at a homewares store a few years ago now.
Place apples into crock pot.  Add about 1 cup of water, turn on high, cover with lid and leave for about an hour, until apples are mushy.  Add brown sugar to taste, a glob of butter (I used about 50g) and about 2Tb dutch cinnamon.  Leave lid off,  stirring every so often.  Keep cooking until reduced to a thick paste.

Bottle in clean, warm jars with a tight fitting lid.   Make sure they seal well as they cool.

Apple butter should keep well for a couple of weeks in the fridge or if you want longer term storage you will need to process the jars in a water bath.  I didn't bother with this.

Hope you have fun making and eating apple butter. 
I know I did!!

Have you made apple butter?  How do you do it?

Linking to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and Sorta Crunchy's Green Resource. and Fat Tuesday
Check out the great ideas over there.

update: menu plan

Hi all,

Just a short post to let you know the menu plan link issue has been solved. 
Please, I hope it is all over and fixed now!!

Here is the link to the original post.

Have a great day.


Monday, February 06, 2012

lacto fermented green beans - a recipe

Let me first start by saying I am no expert in lacto-fermentation,
but when has that ever stopped me!!??  Here we go!

What is lacto-fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation or culturing, is the preservation of foods using lactic acid.  Lactic acid is produced as a by-product of the growth of good bacterias present in food.  The growth in acidity, makes it difficult for bad bacteria to survive and so preserves the food.  Lactic acid and the good bacterias are encouraged by the addition of either salted water or whey.  The food product is prepared, packed into jars and the starter is added.  Left at room temperature for several days the lactic acid builds up and the food is preserved.

Why use lacto-fermentation instead of canning, bottling or freezing?

Lacto-fermentation is a low energy form of preserving food.  It does not require energy consumption for heating or cooling or a great deal of other resources.  Also, the fermenting or culturing of the food, produces a different flavour, the food is more easily digestible and has increased nutrient content.  It all sounds good to me!

I still have more questions than answers.  Like, how can you be sure the food is properly fermented?  How long will the food products last when fermented?  Are they safe to eat in pregnancy?  What types of foods can be fermented?  How do you ferment fruits?  What do they taste like?????

The best way of finding out, is to give it a go myself.  I picked a 'recipe' based on a few that I had read around the web.  I have plenty of green beans in the garden and I started from there.

This is what I did...

Cut up and blanch the beans for 2min.

While the beans are blanching, slice a clove of garlic and drop in the bottom of a clean preserving jar.

Remove the beans from the boiling water and place into iced water, until cool.  (I didn't have any ice, so I used the kids frozen bottle coolers as ice blocks!)

Pat dry the beans.  A two year old helper may be necessary!

Pack the beans into the jar.  It's good to lay the jar on it's side to do this.

Fill the jar with a solution of 1 and one half Tb unrefined sea salt in 2c filtered water.

Add another sliced clove of garlic to the top of the jar.

Cover the jar with the screw top lid and leave at room temperature for three days.  After this time the beans should be properly cultured and ready for storage.

I'll let you know how it turns out in a few days.

Have you ever used lacto-fermentation?  Can you recommend a good recipe or site?