Monday, 16 October 2017

When Things Stop Being Simple.....!!

The simple things in life are often taken for granted, especially when circumstances prevent you from doing what you want to do.....After losing dad last year, mum's cancer returned and we also found out that she has Alzheimer's.  The diagnosis was missed for a long time because we were putting her memory issues down to stress and tiredness from taking care of my father.   The crunch came in April when she was no longer able to live by herself in the Retirement Village that had been home to her and dad for the past 10 years..... Ssssoooo she moved in with my husband and I until we figured out what else to do.. She has been with us for six months, which had been challenging for everyone...then she finally agreed that aged care would be OK...There is a facility within walking distance from my home..who knew??.... after filling out a dozen forms and answering a million questions, we sold her property and 2 weeks ago got her a bed in the local aged home...
All the walkers liked up as the ladies do lunch in the dining room at the nursing home.
Happy to report she is going amazingly well and has taken to it like a duck to water...after 6 months with us where we could get her to do little more than sit in a chair and watch TV all day...she has a new lease on life and getting on like a house on fire, made new friends and joining in loads of activities... they even got her to take up knitting again which I couldn't get her interested in at all.......and I have my life back!!.  It's a win, win. ...  so back to the blog and my "Simple Life".

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Well...This is Demoralising ...!!

They say practice makes perfect...well I certainly need a load more practice because take 2 is a darn sight worse than my first attempt... Yes I am a dreamer and the tantalising smell of freshly baked sourdough with a crust that cracks to reveal a beautifully cooked loaf is what I am trying to achieve...perhaps I need to aim a whole lot lower !!  It looked so easy at the cooking class and Georgie produced magnificent loaves even after all of us had stuck our fingers into it and seriously overworked the dough... I am definitely doing something wrong at the very beginning of the process.. possibly I need to investigate the whole 'Hydration" thing again.  Sigh.. !!

Baked two boulders... one on the left was shaped in a banneton ...not that you can tell.
What a sad sticky dough it contained... and dare I say flat as a pan cake.
 Thankfully the daily visit to the vegetable garden gives me way more pleasure than my baking efforts.. picked the first of the pumpkins today..also getting passionfruits from a vine I only planted last year... Maybe I should just stick to gardening.
I fill this basket each morning with goodies from the garden.. 
 The abundance of fresh produce from the vegie patch always leaves me with the problem of using them up...I do give lots away but really think I could utilise way more if I only knew more interesting ways to prepare them.   I received Maggie Beer's Harvest cookbooks for my birthday...there is one for each season and has some great recipe's  and ideas to use your own produce...very timely I think.

Hopefully these will generate fabulous ideas to use up my home-grown produce.
I will get back to the sourdough drawing board...I'm deflated but not yet beaten....the dream of making my own delicious sourdough is still flickering...  hopefully it won't be snuffed out by take 3 !

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Very Sad Sourdough....!

My first attempt at making sourdough was to put it mildly ..... abysmal...I baked two house-bricks !!  I am not put off yet...however I'm not sure where I went wrong.  Am attempting 'take 2' today...already off to a bad start as the dough looks the same as this one...something not quite right at the very early stages I fear.  I am still going to bake them and see what I wind up with...if nothing else it is good practise on oven first efforts cooked on the outside very early in the process and started to overcook and the middle was still not right... food for thought.
Very sad looking preformed dough...didn't have a 'gluten skin' I think is the problem.
Sad looking house-bricks...very doughy in the middle and definitely no hollow sound when knocked on !!

February lunch with friends...J&A produced a lovely Rick Stein Moroccan chicken dish, the Big K and Robbie supplied pearl couscous with delicious Mediterranean bits.... I was designated to bring salad so roast beetroot, sweet potato, asparagus with macadamia nuts...J&M brought up the rear with dessert..baklava and stuffed dates (sorry J didn't get a good picture of them)...lots of wine and laughs as always.  
The usual suspects !!
Delicious lunch. !!
My man and I took a five day break to Batemen's Bay to celebrate my birthday...fortunately the dogs were included as the accommodation was dog friendly...Daisy knew something was up because once I got the suitcases out she plonked herself in my man's travel bag and wouldn't get out...she is so gorgeous..she even had her 'Santa Monkey' toy who she wanted to bring along with her. 

Daisy packing herself for out road trip to Bateman's Bay !!
 We spent five beautiful days here .  Carrie was a fabulous host.  It is a B&B on a 20 acre farmstay...loads of farm animals, situated on the Clyde river...nothing to do but sit back and relax...the fluffy girls had a great time..  They even behaved themselves when we took them into town each day for lunch at local cafe's.  it was a really beautiful spot and lovely accommodation.
The view from our deck to the Clyde River in Nelligen.
 Last night I attended a Gnocchi making course at String and Salt (surely after all these classes I will manage to make something edible !!!)  with the lovely Anna running us all through the was great fun...I actually think I might be able to make gnocchi certainly looks easier than making sourdough....tonight will be the test as I am going to give it a go at home... how hard can it be right ??

The lovely Anna directing the sauce making.

everyone getting hands on with the gnocchi making....

I'm off to put the next lot of sourdough into the oven....wish me luck !

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Sourdough Pancakes .....

I've had a request to put up the sourdough pancake recipe so here you go...

Sourdough Pancakes
2 cups active sourdough starter
1 egg
sugar or maple syrup to taste
cinnamon to taste
2 tbsp. oil or melted butter
1tsp bicarb soda
2-4 tbsp. milk, coconut milk or water (your choice)

Butter or coconut oil for frying pancakes

Handy tip: mix other ingredients separately then add to the sourdough starter & just fold through so you don't knock out the air bubbles.
1. mix together egg, sugar or maple, oil and bicarb and sourdough starter,
2. add (milk, coconut milk or water) to thin the batter to a pancake batter consistency.(start with 2 tablespoons of liquid and add more if needed
3. heat frying pan and once hot, melt a slice of butter or coconut oil on the pan and spoon approx. 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.  cook until golden and flip to cook other side 

Handy tip: to see is your starter is active drop a small amount into a glass of water and if it rises to the top it is active.

If anyone is interested in the stewed plums (which were delicious):

(we used about 12 blood plums) 
Halve and pip the plums, add 1 tsp raw sugar, a couple of star anise, 1 scraped vanilla & pod, squeeze juice of one orange and just a dash of water (enough to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pot).  stew until softened.

Monday, 6 February 2017

It's All About The Sourdough !!....

Saturday was sourdough day......I gave my daughter a sourdough class for Christmas and I joined her to learn the beautiful craft of bread-making...I had no idea how specialised artisan bread making can be.... the dough can be a contrary beast whose quality is affected by temperature, handling, moisture, shaping etc...the list goes on.  Thankfully the loaves made by the class all turned out beautifully...even though they had been man-handled by a group of beginners.  I hope that one day I can bake the perfect loaf....apparently it take quite a lot of practice, patience and perseverance...all of which don't come naturally to me !!  It will be worth it  though.... the bread was delicious and the smell of freshly cooked sourdough was amazing.

I'm trying to shape the dough and keep a "gluten skin" on it.... not as easy as it sounds !!
Loaves out of the oven...once cooled they were devoured

Thankfully the 5 hour class included morning tea and lunch....we were served delicious sourdough pancakes with home-grown stewed plums with mascarpone & yoghurt ... the tastiest pancakes I have ever light and fluffy with a hint of cinnamon...Yum
Sourdough pancakes
 Lunch was an array of delicacies from "Stella's Pantry" which were perfect accompaniments for our freshly baked sourdough....all washed down with a glass of wine ....very civilised.  It was a fabulous experience put together by String & Salt in Warragul and I would highly recommend it to anyone wishing to make their own sourdough.. 

Gourmet lunch ...perfect way to end the day and savour the delicious bread.
We were offered a few fresh plums and armed with the recipe for the stewed plums and pancakes we repeated the pancake dish for Sunday breakfast..(I should say my daughter did... she paid better attention than I did and thankfully took great notes!!).. Scrumptious....very decadent breaky !!
Re-produced the pancakes  and plums for breakfast the next day !!

We were shown how to make our own starter which we took home to get us started.... need to remember to feed .....get some more ingredients and then I will give my first loaves a this space !

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The January Whip Around... !

I say it all the time...but I can't believe how fast time flies and January is already done and dusted...It's been busy especially the CWA volunteering on Australia Day....and preparations for the town's Ficifolia Festival.  CWA have a big weekend planned on 11th & 12th at the hall and I'm busy with recipe in a jar and preparations for the garage sale......AND... Zucchini's are everywhere at the moment ... followed closely by some early bring on the bottling !!

Zucchini's all sliced up with onions ready to be pickled.
All pickled and in the jars.... !!
January also saw me continue on the mosaic which I haven't touched since before  we moved over 18 months was originally going to be for a covered external wall in our old house....wasn't sure where it would go here, but have decided we can hopefully waterproof it somehow and hang on the outside wall when it finally gets has been a very long all my projects !!

Finally making some progress with the mosaic.
One of our small apple trees (an orange Blenheim) ... only been in a year produced about 10 apples...they were a bit scrappy but the birds decided to leave me these five and along with our rhubarb I managed to make an apple & rhubarb excited to have fruit in the garden even if at this stage they are minimal.

Apples and rhubarb from our own exciting

Homemade was surprisingly delicious ..!!
 The zucchini assault continued all of January.....this lot turned into Zucchini Relish ...even managed a few red capsicums from the garden as's been a zucchini fest !
Zucchini and capsicums from our garden....onions, vinegar, sugar, turmeric etc.....equals relish.
Bottled up into jars....most of these get given away as gifts..... one can only eat so much zucchini !!
This month I discovered the local op-shop warehouse....they have some amazing stuff in there...picked up a dozen fowler jars...$1 each... they have heaps so I will be back....also vintage tortoiseshell knitting needles...I have been on the hunt for these for ages...couldn't believe it...I had been looking for some on Ebay and the few I saw were very pricey....I actually paid extra for these at the op-shop because they were so cheap !!...they were a real treasure to find.

Fowler jars and vintage knitting needles.... I just need the top bar for the jars.
My neighbour Les introduced me to his 'lunar planting guide' that he bought off the internet....I made a copy of it for myself...he swears by moon-planting so I am going to follow the guidelines and see what happens...There may be something in it.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Belated Blog .....!!

Christmas has come and gone and January is already half over ....  my blog is always the last thing on the list of must do's.... so today is finally the day to catch up.  It was our first Christmas without dad and my eldest daughter had an old photo of him restored, enlarged and reframed for me as a gift ...that's him on the right, about 17 when he played football....I love this photo .....  I got quite emotional when I unwrapped good to try and remember him this way.... a young man with his life still ahead of him.

Beautifully framed restored photo of my dad...
 My younger daughter also spoilt me with a beautiful new set of gardening tools and something that I had never seen before...... "Swags"  for keeping vegies fresh in the fridge...have to say they are amazing...I've used them for carrots and zucchini's so far and have to say they have kept things very just dampen the 'swags' and put in the veg and keep the bags dampened in the crisper...easy !
The "Swags" all dampened and into the crisper....excellent idea.
 We took my mum to see her brother in Ballarat for a day trip late December and were amazed at the gorgeous Christmas decorations that the town had on display....they were absolutely beautiful and mostly made of flowers best friend has family in Ballarat and she agreed to take a night time snap of the floral reindeers in all their glory.....very festive indeed.
One of the many beautiful Christmas decorations in Ballarat ...they do a great job !!
 The new year has started out with quite a big commitment to the local CWA...we have a lot going on for Australia Day...7:30am free breakfast for 120 locals  !!...then Australia Day in the Park commencing at 4pm..serving tea and coffee to all the locals for free !!.  We also have the Ficifolia Festival in Drouin Feb 11th & 12th..... this year we are holding a garage sale at the CWA hall called "Grandma's Attic"...selling second hand items and serving (you guessed it) tea/coffee and a homemade biscuit for a gold coin donation... It's fundraising for the CWA so I suggested we also do Recipe in a Jar to raise additional funds.....I have put together jar's containing oatmeal cookie ingredients using recycled & thoroughly washed Moccona Coffee jars from the Op Shop Warehouse in Drouin... taste tested the recipe I found on line ..they are tasty and economical to make ..... hopefully they should raise some extra $$ for the CWA.

Recipe in a jar for our CWA fundraiser...hopefully we will sell a few of these.
Each jar will make 12 biscuits...they require very little effort to make.
  What would a blog be without a photo of my latest cup of green tea.....

Another addition to the green tea many creative ways to serve it.
Being January the garden is going well even though the several really hot days have been tough..... zucchinis have gone crazy and a big batch are pickling away as we speak... more of that next time.