Thursday, 21 August 2014

come take a walk around my garden








I've been spending a lot of time in the garden this week preparing it for spring. We've had some much needed rain and the plants have been lapping it up appreciatively. Everything seemed to literally grow inches overnight. My water tanks are happy now too, which puts me in a good position leading into the new growing season.

I've been pulling the old winter crops out, replacing them with new seeds and seedlings. The cauliflowers are almost all done, along with many of the broccoli plants. I've still got some broccoli plants coming along, which should produce nicely into spring.

But my mind has been turned towards spring crops now. Bean seeds, zucchinis, squash, potatoes, tomatoes are all being planted out. A few last cabbages and some Asian greens have also gone into the beds. If you want all the details of what I'm planting, you'll find that HERE.

If you've been thinking about starting a spring garden, why not start now? I've got a few pointers HERE for those who've been thinking about it, but don't really know where to start.

Go on, go and get your hands dirty! What? You really don't like getting your hands dirty?  
(Psssst two words: Gardening gloves).

Happy gardening!


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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

this week in my kitchen








Joining in with the lovely Heather from Beauty That Moves. Some glimpses into my kitchen this week. It's been yet another busy week in the kitchen.

Making the most of the final leg of winter with some Moroccan meatballs in the tagine.

Loads of vegetables coming in from the garden. The last of the cauliflowers and womboks as well as broccoli and pumpkin (of course) which is always snuck into everything!

A mega batch of biscuits for the freezer. Some of my budget friendly butter biscuits (pimped up with cherries and choc chips this time) and some caramel biscuits. The kids were pretty pleased about those.

Some pumpkin sandwich bread, which was an experiment in offloading some more pumpkin. Amazingly everyone gave it a big thumbs up, which means I'll be making some more of it in the near future. Love finding new things to do with the never ending pile of pumpkin!

And my favourite afternoon snack, kale chips, from my massive kale bushes in the garden.

Happy days in this busy kitchen of mine!



Wanna see what else has been happening in my kitchen? Go HERE.


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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

starting a spring vegetable garden- it's time to plant now!


If you've been thinking about starting a vegetable garden for spring, now is the time to get started. That's right, NOW.

No more procrastinating. Go and get yourself some packets of seeds, or some seedlings and get planning.

I promise that starting a garden isn't scary. It's as easy as sticking a seed or seedling in the soil and giving it some water. Of course certain things will increase your plant's chances for success, but it really isn't hard.

For most Australians, spring is the best time to start a vegetable garden. It's when the days are getting longer and the soil is warming up enough to grow vegetables productively.


What do I do first?

Choose your growing spot. You're going to need plenty of sunlight, so make sure your area isn't shaded and receives sunlight for most of the day.

You'll also want a water source nearby. Bucketing water to plants isn't fun for anyone, so make sure you are able to freely water your plants.

Then you'll need to prepare your soil. If you are growing in the ground you'll need to turn the soil over. This can be done with just a garden fork or a rotary hoe is useful for large areas. Usually you do this, wait a couple of weeks for the weeds to start to sprout and then turn it again. You'll also need to mix in some compost, animal manure (my favourites are sheep and chook manure) and I also like a few handfuls of blood and bone in the mix as well.

If you are growing in raised beds, like I do, you'll need to fill them with good quality soil, making sure you add in plenty of compost, manure and blood and bone as well. Vegetables like a good rich soil to grow in, so make sure you add plenty of organic matter before you start.

Then comes the really fun part- planting!


So what can you grow?

Well that is a little dependant on where you live. Some areas will get late frosts for a while yet. If your area is still frosty, hold off on frost sensitive plants for a few weeks, but put in your hardier plants now.

I hold off planting anything that is frost sensitive until a couple of weeks before the last expected frost date. I'll keep the seedlings on my verandah (where the frost doesn't reach) and I'll only plant them out in the garden when I'm sure the frosts are done with.

Potatoes can go out direct in the garden a couple of weeks before the last expected frost date as it's the green plant that is frost sensitive and it'll take the potato a couple of weeks to shoot. So by the time you've got a green potato plant, the danger of frosts should have passed.

If you live in a frost free area you can get planting with all spring plants immediately! Some plants will really take off when the weather heats up (corn, tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers). As soon as that heat kicks in you can really see them grow.


So what am I planting for spring?

This spring I've got a large mix of veggies in my garden. You'll find:

- beans (frost sensitive)
- corn (frost sensitive)
- potatoes (frost sensitive)
- peas
- tomatoes (frost sensitive)
- lettuces
- rocket
- carrots
- beetroots
- radishes
- zucchinis (frost sensitive)
- cucumbers (frost sensitive)
- mini yellow squash (frost sensitive)
- shallots
- cabbages (new plantings)
- broccoli (new plantings)
- basil (frost sensitive)
- marigolds

Still growing from winter you'll find
- silverbeet
- spinach
- onions
- leeks
- garlic (such a sad looking crop this year unfortunately)
- cabbages
- broccoli
- herbs
- strawberries
- kale
- carrots
- beetroots
- flowers calendula, paper daisies, sweet peas

OK I planted everything- What comes next?

Once you've planted your seeds or seedlings in the soil you'll need to water them regularly. If the days are really hot, they'll need more water. Make sure the soil stays moist and doesn't dry out too much and your plants should stay pretty happy.

Pull weeds out as soon as you see them. Weeds are easy to get on top of while they are small. If you leave them to get big, you'll have a lot of work ahead of you to pull them out. The best weeding advice I can give is, "Weed early, weed often!".

Keep an eye out for pests. Getting on top of pests early (before they have a chance to multiply their numbers) is important. If you see a few caterpillars on the plants, pick them off. Same goes for slugs. Seedlings that have been damaged by pests won't grow well. Look after those little plants and reap the rewards later on.

Enjoy yourself! Gardening is lots of fun and so satisfying. Get out there and get into it!



So does a vegetable garden actually save money? See all the costings of my vegetable garden HERE.

Want to start a garden with the kids? I've got a bunch of tips on gardening with kids HERE

To check out more of my garden and see how we built it, go HERE and HERE.


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Monday, 18 August 2014

pumpkin sandwich bread

We are getting a little sick of the sight of pumpkin lately. It turns up in most meals each week as we try and put a dent in the pumpkin stash. We've given loads of them away as well as stuffing ourselves silly, yet there's still a crazy amount of pumpkins left in the store shed. It feels like the never ending pile of pumpkin that magically keeps replenishing itself.

Coming up with new things to do with pumpkin is always on the agenda! Thanks to all those who have given me some ideas. They have been much appreciated! We are gradually working through some of them.


This week I had what I thought was a brainwave. Perhaps I could sneak some pumpkin into our bread as well? Would the kids even notice? Hmm, the bright yellow colour might be a bit of a giveaway, but it was worth a shot.

I usually make wholegrain loaves for sandwiches, but thought mixing it up with a pumpkin loaf might be fun and a great way to burn through a bit more pumpkin.

This was a total "wing it" recipe, but you know what? It turned out a totally delicious and moist loaf that was perfect for sandwiches. Something I'll definitely be repeating a few times over again!

I used a gramma pumpkin, which is really soft, moist and sweet. Different pumpkins will vary in their dryness, which will make a big difference to your loaf.

This is not a strict recipe for making pumpkin bread. More of a rough guide for those who might like to wing it now and again in the kitchen!




How to make Pumpkin Bread (makes 2 big loaves)

If you have a small breadmaker or only want to make 1 loaf, simply halve the recipe.

Ingredients:

1kg strong bread flour
2 cups of roasted, cooled and mashed pumpkin
30 grams yeast
pinch of salt
enough water to make a dough (approx 4 tablespoons)

How I did it:

I roasted my pumpkin in the oven and mashed it up. When it was cool I added it along with the flour and yeast to my breadmaker, set to the "dough" setting. (Don't have a breadmaker? Just mix/knead it by hand).

As it was mixing I added enough water to make a dough. For me this was about 4 tablespoons water, but would vary with the dryness of the pumpkin you are using. If your pumpkin is dry, you'll need more water.

You know when your dough is the right consistency when all the flour has nicely incorporated into the dough. The dough also shouldn't stick to the sides of the bread maker too much, but should still be a nice soft dough. If the dough is too hard it won't rise well. You'll need to add a little more water to soften it up. If it's too wet it'll have problems rising as well, in that case add a little more flour.

Allow to rise in the breadmaker. If you don't have a breadmaker place in a bowl in a warm spot to rise for about 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

After it's risen, punch it down. Divide into two. Knead into loaf shapes and place into lightly oiled loaf tins. Allow about 40 mins -1 hour to rise in a nice warm place. Dough should be doubled in size.

Once risen you can slash the tops of the loaves (it's optional you don't have to slash). Brush with a little water and sprinkle with pepitas/pumpkin seeds. Bake in a hot oven until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.

After making a few loaves of bread you start to get the feel for what dough should look and feel like to make a nice loaf. It's not hard, but sometimes takes a little practise if you haven't made bread before to get right.

Making bread is lots of fun though. Good luck!


Monday, 11 August 2014

let's talk christmas fabrics


It's always around this time of year I start to think about getting organised for Christmas. Ok, ok, If I'm being truthful I often don't get much further than the thinking phase. Good intentions and all. Lucky I love the planning part so much. Planning what new things to make, what fabrics I'm going to work with, what supplies I have and what I'm likely to need. It's probably my very favourite bit!

It's been my goal for a few years now to have a house completely covered in homemade decorations. And would you know it, little by little I am slowly getting there.

Last year I finally finished sewing each of the kids a Santa sack, from some of my very favourite fabrics. Gosh the kids just love those. Pulling them out on Christmas Eve always creates some crazy excitement.


There's also the homemade advent calendar, that we fill with fun activities (and sometimes the odd little treat) for the month before Christmas. Huge hit with the kids. My eldest begs for me to put it out each year.



I added some new bunting to our decorations as well, so we have quite a few different strands of bunting to hang around the house. As much as I love the sparkliness of tinsel, the clean up afterwards, definitely not-to-much!

I love the look of homemade buntings around the house. They are timeless and they're washable and iron-able (not to mention top stitched like mad), so they're hopefully going to look good for decades.


We've got quite a few home made tree decorations, but I've got some big making plans in that department. So many, many plans- so little time!


One thing I'm pretty fussy about though is Christmas fabrics. I figure if I'm going to spend all that time sewing something special, and it's something that we are going to bring out year after year, I may as well make it out of fabric I really love.

Sadly, I'm finding there isn't much I'm loving at the moment in the way of Christmas fabrics. Don't get me wrong, I've scored some beauties in the past. Alexander Henry has had some stunning prints.

Err no, I'm not talking about their pin up Christmas fabrics. Not that I have anything against people who want those kind of fabrics. I mean whatever floats your boat and all. I'm making things for children in this house though!

What I'm talking about is their classic Letter to Santa (now that's my kind of Santa), Santa's sparrows and Angel Cakes prints. Those fabrics are all kinds of right in my opinion.

While we're talking amazing Christmas prints, let's not forget this Belle and Boo print, which might just be my favourite Christmas print ever. Goodness, those illustrations are just perfection.


I've been trying to narrow down exactly what makes something I'd label a "timeless Christmas fabric". It guess it comes down to this- I love classic prints with beautiful illustrations. Prints that have just that right amount of nostalgia and whimsy, that remind you of your very favourite Christmas books you read growing up. Fabrics that aren't going to look tacky in 3 years time, when I have a big "What was I thinking?" moment.

I definitely don't like creepy looking Santas. Hmm, does anyone like the creepy looking Santa prints? My Santa needs cherubic, rosy cheeks and sweet eyes and a gentle beard. Forget the bristly beards and shifty eyes. Because let's face it, when you start to think about it Santa is just a little bit creepy. So Santa really shouldn't look like an old man you might actually run into on the street.

Hmm, what else? I'm not so big on murky or crazy colours for that matter either. Weird animals at Christmas?
Why, I ask? Just, why? I don't understand those fabrics at all, not for Christmas anyway. I'm sure someone out there is loving the weird animal Christmas fabrics, but they aren't going to be finding a home in my house any time soon.


Perhaps I am not looking in the right places? Perhaps there are some amazing Christmas fabrics out there that I just haven't seen yet. That's what I'm hoping anyway! Do you guys know any great Christmas fabrics that are just too good to pass up? Timeless beauties that just simply must come to live at my house?

Hit me with them! I'd really love to find a couple of new prints to add to my Christmas fabric stash!


Thursday, 7 August 2014

this week in my kitchen







Joining in with Heather from Beauty that Moves. Showing some glimpses into my kitchen and what's been happening in there this week.


- Lots of bread making going on. Regular wholegrain bread for the kid's sandwiches and some Sultana Cinnamon bread for toast.

- As always loads of food from the garden showing up in all our meals. So much food out there at the moment. Of course pumpkin seems to make it into pretty much everything. Got to do something with all those pumpkins!!

- Kaffir lime zest is incredibly delicious in stir fries, as well as salads. Just so you know.

- Some truly delicious budget biscuit making as well. The recipe for the biscuits can be found HERE.


Thanks so much for coming and taking a look around, I love having visitors!



Wanna see what else has been happening in my kitchen? Go HERE.

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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

budget friendly butter biscuits

My kitchen has been a crazy busy place of late. I've been challenging myself to make as much of our food from scratch as possible, while trying to keep our budget in check. I've always made our food from scratch, but paying careful attention to the budget is becoming a new way of life.

I'm determined that our food, even if it is budget friendly, is still going to taste mighty fine as well.

My kids mainly get fruit for snacks, but they do love a bikkie now and again. Who can blame 'em really? They are definitely delicious. These homemade ones will have you wondering if you can ever buy biscuits at the store again!



I promise these bikkies don't disappoint. They are really yum. The cherry ones in particular are my very favourite. But we all know I've got a bit of a thing for cherries! They're soft, buttery and deliciously crumbly when you bite into them. They're ridiculously moreish, so you'll also need to find a safe place to store them away, so you don't eat them all up at once. I make a "master recipe" which can be dressed up however you like. You can add in your favourite extras to make them a little bit more exciting! Come on, who doesn't love a customised, pimped up biscuit?

But importantly, they're also budget friendly, using lovely quality ingredients.

These biscuits are a slice and bake recipe, which means you don't have to cook them all at once if you don't want to. You can keep a few rolls in the fridge ready to bake, or pull a roll out of the freezer, ready for slicing up whenever you need some fresh bikkies on hand.


Master Recipe: Budget Friendly Butter Biscuits (Makes 100 biscuits)

Ingredients

500 grams unsalted butter (softened)
2 cups icing sugar
4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup cornflour
1/2 cup rice flour
4 teaspoons vanilla extract


Here's How I Do It

Put your butter, vanilla extract and icing mixture in your mixer bowl and beat until it's soft and fluffy. This will take at least 5 mins of mixing, maybe more.

Sift your flours together and gradually fold into your fluffy butter mixture.

Knead your dough together on your bench top and separate out into 8 even balls.

Roll your balls into log shapes. Wrap in paper or cling wrap and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.

(You can freeze your logs at this point and bring them out to defrost when you want to cook them.)

When the dough has hardened up a bit, take them out of the fridge and slice them about 1cm thick and put them on your biscuit trays. (I line my trays with baking paper so they don't stick, which I reuse over and over again).

Bake in a 180 degree C oven until lightly golden. This takes just under 10 mins in my oven, your oven may vary a bit, so keep an eye on them.

They'll be a bit soft, but will go crispy as they cool down.

Put them on a wire rack to cool and try not to eat them all up! Don't blame me if you find yourself scoffing them down. They're really delicious. You've been warned!

Cost of biscuits: Around $5 for about 100 quality biscuits


Pimp my biscuit! I also like to make different variations:

Cherry biscuits: Add a packet of diced glace cherries to your mix after you have kneaded your dough.

Chocolate choc chip: Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder to your flour mix when you sift and mix into the butter mixture. Add a cup of choc chips when you knead your dough.

Lemon biscuits: Leave out the vanilla extract and add 1 tablespoon of grated lemon rind into your butter mixture when you beat it up. You could use any citrus rind this way (orange/lime/mandarin etc).

Possibilities for pimping are pretty much endless- you could add sultanas, macadamias (or other nuts), mini m&ms, dried fruit, spices, you name it!

Please let me know if you make them. I'd love to know your pimping preference!

Enjoy!


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