Hi there!

I’m slowly working towards some simplicity within the home, but hey! It’s a lot of hard work!

I love having a go at growing my own veges and always use herbs fresh from my garden. I try to plant from seed whenever I can and have learnt to save and share my own seed for the following year. I make Award Winning preserves and pickles; and my husband brews Award Winning boutique beers as well. I love to stockpile and try to limit quick trips to the shops. I dabble in bread making and enjoy making my own stocks too.

I enjoy feeding my family good hearty meals, nothing like those tiny restaurant stacks you have to look for on the plate. My husband maintains our vehicles and machinery and we both enjoy fabricating on a small scale mostly relying on metal & timber recyclers for any materials needed.

While I don’t always have time to reply to comments, I love reading them. I hope you enjoy your stay and I hope you learn something new because I love sharing what I learn, and I'm always looking for another new skill myself.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear readers.....please bare with me, as I am working on the layout of my blog...I hope to make it a bit more user friendly soon.
Thanking you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rhubarb & Mint Jelly

Well, it seems that if you add enough sugar, anything can taste good....even Rhubarb. It makes me wonder if Nan or Mum ever put sugar in their Rhubarb and Apple....It was far too tart for my liking....and until the other day, I thought I would never like the taste of Rhubarb. I guess it just depends on the way you serve it!

For those who are wondering what book these recipes came from, the book is called ......
"Preserves" by Catherine Atkinson & Maggie Mayhew.
Published by "Hermes House, an imprint of Anness Publishing, Wigston, Leicestershire LE18 4SE"
ISBN: 13 :  978  *  1 *  84681  * 571  *  3
ISBN: 10 :  1  * 84681  *  571  *  3   (sorry for the funny asterix's, the pc was picking up that this was a code if I typed it correctly.)

Here is a photo of the front cover....I picked this book up at a newly opened book store in Warrawong, where all the books were $5.00 each. I think this is a reasonable price for a comprehensive book like this.

Rhubarb & Mint Jelly

Sorry for those who prefer to print the recipe by copying and pasting....this looks a lot nicer, but it is definitely not printer friendly.

After cooking the Rhubarb and beginning to strain overnight.

I was too tired to cook this when it was ready, so I put it in the fridge until the following day.
Then it was time to get cooking.

My Nan and my Mum have always added a blob of butter to settle the scum that forms on the top of a rolling boil jam. This was beginning to make a scum, so I added the blob of  butter.....
Going from memory, I thought the butter would dissolve the scum, but it didn't. It did however make it nice and thick and contained in one area, so it was easier to scoop off the top.
I'm sure I have used this method and had the scum disappear before my eyes.....Hmmmmm
Here is the scum that I scooped....but I only took the photo after I had removed the mint, which is at a later step.
Use a latex elastic band to bundle the mint together...
Quicker than tying a string, and re-usable time and time again.

After boiling for what I thought was enough time to be thickening and getting close to setting point..I decided to add about half a cup of lemon juice (from the freezer) to help reach setting point. Lemon juice is high in pectin, which is what is needed sometimes to make a jam or jelly set.
adding the lemon juice

The instructions say to add the chopped mint after removing from the heat...I was weary of this, as I felt that the mint should feel cooked on the palate. So I added the mint once it started to thicken. I'm glad I did, as the fresh mint floated on the top of the jelly in the saucepan. I figured, if it floated in the saucepan, it will float in the jar....Which is not what I wanted.

I'm pleased to say that the jelly soon thickened after adding the lemon juice, I think another 20 minutes did the trick too.
I also cooked the jelly longer to make sure the mint was cooked.....but it still floated....so I decided to wait until it cooled considerably until pouring it into the jars. Having the jelly thicker, I was able to stir the mint through the jelly, and it remained mixed through. (Genius thinking on my behalf..lol)

But now I had another problem.........
The jelly would be too cool to seal the lids....I remembered that Rhonda had posted about canning in the oven with small batches, so I had a read and decided on popping them in the oven for roughly 35 minutes on a medium heat.
This method sealed them nicely once they cooled. It popped those little buttons down as soon as I tried to move them.
I think I will have to try this jelly on a cold meat like lamb or silverside. It would also be good on toast or a crumpet too. I can taste the rhubarb flavour, then comes the light minty flavour at the end. It's very delicious and very light in flavour, but I'm not sure I will make it again, unless I add the lemon juice from the start of the cooking process to help set the jelly.

4 lovely jars with a delicate flavour of Rhubarb and Mint.
I love how the freckles of mint dance through the colour of the rhubarb.
even after all that fussing, some settlement of the mint on the top still remains....Oh well.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rhubarb & Ginger Jam

Yesterday I mentioned that I was making for the first time a Rhubarb & Ginger Jam. Well I have to tell you I was as surprised as Mum when we tasted it. Mum's first reaction was, "Wow, we should have been making that years ago!" So there you go! It is really delicious. The only problem now is that it didn't make enough. Because of the surprisingly delicious flavour of this jam, I am going to be making more for the stockpile.

Rhubarb & Ginger Jam

More Rhubarb recipes to come....Next.....Rhubarb & Mint Jelly................................

Friday, November 25, 2011

On my mind...Rhubarb

Photo doesn't show how thick they were as well as long.

Many thanks to Rhonda at Down to Earth for this concept.

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind". Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When you've done that, come back here and add a comment below, with  a link to your blog. 

This is the largest I have ever seen my Rhubarb. It is definitely a good season for Rhubarb. I have a few ideas as to what I will use it all for, but I will also share some with a few neighbours too.  This Rhubarb is the very same Rhubarb that was planted at my Nan's house....I have since shared the plants with one of my Aunty's as well. It's also beginning to go to seed, which I will save when it is ready. Another way of sharing out my Nan's Rhubarb.

Yesterday I began two different preserves using Rhubarb, both using 1 kg of the fruit. Both recipes are new to me, so follow along and see where it takes us.

You would think that I have made a bit of a bare patch in the Rhubarb bed now, but you would be mistaken....lol There's just soooo much of it out there, which is great, except I don't like it, Mum does! However, I do enjoy the lovely champage it makes. We make it on and off over the summer holidays.
I haven't tried it in any other form for years, so it may be worth tasting again sometime soon.

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

................so far so good.

keep an eye out for other Rhubarb recipes coming soon.
What is your favourite way to enjoy Rhubarb? Have you ever made jam from it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gardening 101 for December

Another month has passed since I went to my gardening course. this weekend passed, I almost backed out on going, as I had been suffering with an infection with high temperatures. Had I not attended, I knew I would regret it, having missed out on all that information, so that's why I decided to push through. The weather was so hot, which made the hall almost unbearable. People were topping up their water bottles constantly and I made a paper fan to help keep me cool. I took some notes, but bare with me, as I try to fill you in.

All good students in the gardening course
Richard the teacher
 Jobs to be doing now......

  • Mulch your garden, don't make it too thick...up to 75mm thick,  but ideally about 50mm thick. If you use organic matter you may run into problems of too much nitrogen (green plant matter), or too much carbon (dried plant matter). I learn't this lesson with my pumpkin vines. They are looking much much happier now I have removed most of the carbon mulch. Thanks Richard for the advice via my mobile phone.
  • Look for aphids and thrip and treat any plants which are hosting the nasty insects.
  • Keep an eye out for the lovely Hoverfly. You definitely want this insect in your garden, as the Hoverfly larvae will eat about 400 aphids in any one day. 
  • Keep a lookout for those horrible slugs and snails, and when you find one, either give it to the chooks or kill it. (I've been clearing my front garden bed to make way for new plants, but also to clear out all those hiding places for slugs and snails.)
  • Take cuttings of your Natives, Azaleas, Lilly Pilly as well as cuttings from your Sweet Potato. 
When harvesting cuttings from Sweet Potato, choose a nice healthy runner of good length. You will see the small nodules near each leaf; this is where a potato will shoot from. Before planting the runner, you can remove the larger leaves, but it isn't necessary. Cover the runners with 5 cm of soil.

  • Prune your Climbing Roses, and trim your Camellia & Wisteria vines along with your Perennials.

  • Your lawn should be showing lovely rich growth now and be mowing it more regular. Lift the lawn mower blades one or two notches, to give that nice thick spongy growth. Your children's feet will thank you. (I am needing to mow my lawn every 5 days now)

  • Keep up with the Liquid Fertiliser each fortnight, but don't fertilise your root crops. Only fertilise your leaf vegetables.   (I was fertilising everything in the garden, and the tops of my parsnips were almost to my waist. So the nitrogen in the Liquid Fertiliser was producing lovely lush green tops, instead of the energy going to produce lovely long parsnips.So I trimmed the tops off all the parsnip and added them as a layer for my no-dig garden bed).

  • Now is the time to be adding wetting agents to your pots. If you don't, you run a definite risk of your potted plants drying out and dying. Keep to the recommended doses though, as you don't want to rot your plants either.
  • Plant your beans. If you have already, plant another crop for a later harvest. For harvest, it is better to sew a dwarf variety than a climbing runner variety. Picking beans on a bush bean brings on new growth of another crop. This can happen 3 to 4 times.

  • Tomatoes, Eggplant and Capsicums all need to be caged or staked; and pick off side shoots to allow good air flow.

  • Check on your Dak Pots to attract fruitfly. They may need a top-up, being careful they don't dry out and become useless.

  • Purchase some of those old fashioned sticky fly tapes to hang in your fruit trees. If any fruit-fly do go to the tree, they will be attracted to and be stick on the sticky tape. (Unfortunately, they also stick and trap the good insects)

  • Still time to be planting more seed potatoes. When harvesting potatoes, you could also leave the baby ones in there, and they will shoot when the time comes.

  • Parsley and Spinach may be flowering now, which will make it sour to the palate. You have the option of allowing it to go to seed, or pulling the whole plant up before that happens. (I have pulled most of my parsley, as I have plenty of seed from the previous year. On harvesting my parsley I have kept back the good leaves to dry in the dehydrator.) Don't keep any leaf from a plant that is going to seed or flowering.
In your garden at the moment, you should be harvesting baby squash, shallots, beetroot, beans from an early crop. Maybe you have some cherry tomatoes becoming red and ripe too. (As soon as there is the slightest colour on my tomatoes, I will be bringing them inside to ripen so not to feed them to the dreaded fruitfly).

Caroline and Jo making their own hanging basket.
It's probably your last chance to make some Hanging Herb Baskets as gifts for Christmas.....
You will need a hanging basket, preferably lined with plastic. 

  1. Cut a hole in the base of the plastic liner for drainage.
  2. Line with newspaper using roughly ten pages thick.
  3. Add some Sphagnum Moss to the base of the pot. This holds moisture very well and will help keep the soil damp. You can buy it at your local nursery.
  4. Choose your herbs, and place taller plants to the side, so you can train them over the side.
Here is the hanging basket which I made in the garden course. I chose a chillie, fennel, thyme, marjoram and mizuna salad leaf. I think it will be fantastic once it gets going. I've been wanting to try fennel too but I'm sceptical at the aniseed flavour of food.


Think about adding edible flowers to your menu. You may already have plenty of petals that you didn't think of adding. I add lots of flower petals to my salads..but here is a list of flower petals you may not have thought of.  I encourage you to have a go at adding some edible colour to your next salad.
Please note that where I mention a flower, I only recommend the petals, no stamin, no other parts of the flower.
  • Onion flowers (divide up the head)
  • Chive flowers (divide up the head)
  • Borage flowers
  • Calandular petals
  • fruit tree blossoms
  • vegetable flowers (Sacrifice the boy flowers, not the girl flowers; as they produce your crop)
  • Rose Petals (the deeper the colour, the deeper the flavour and aroma) (lovely on top of an iced cake too, or made into Rose Petal Jam, which I will be doing soon)
  • Rosemary flowers (use sparingly) 
  • Lavender flowers
  • Geranium flowers from the scented varieties
  • Pansies
  • Violas and Violets and the young leaves
  • Nasturtium flowers and the young leaves
  • Society Garlic (only the flowers, never the leaves)
  • Fejoa flowers
  • Young tree fern fronds. (Blanched as a salad veg) (use the young spirals)
  • Begonia flowers
  • Impatients flowers
  • Amarynth flowers and young leaves
  • Snapdragon flowers
  • Yellow Day Lily flowers (these have a lemon flavour)
  • Carnations
  • Chrysanthemums flowers
  • Banana flowers (after the banana bunch is formed) (look on internet for ideas)
  • Elderberry flower heads. (used to make cordial and even battered and deep fried)
  • Elderberry berries. (used to make jam)
  • Pomegranate flowers
  • All your herb flowers
  • Radish seed pods (when they are a lovely swollen pod of juicyness)
  • Lilac flowers
  • Hawaiian Hibiscus flowers
  • Hneysuckle flower (not the berry)
  • Wild Hyacynth flowers (not the cultivated garden variety)
  • Marigold
  • Sunflowers
Wow! what a list....is there any I have forgotten or left out? Will you give your salad a revamp with some of these lovely colours. I will miss my Calandular petals in my salads, but I have plenty of dried petals to experiment with now.

You should also have a few plants to harvest seeds from; for your next crop. 
I just harvested seeds from:
  • Corn Salad Leaf 
  • Tatsoi Salad Leaf
  • Water Cress.
  • I also saved for the first time, my Poppy Seed heads....but I'm thinking they are a bit runty to be keeping. Once I work out how to add a photo from my phone, I can show you the huge difference in size.
Richard the gardener, said that they are the same as the ones used for the tops of bread, but I'm not so sure about mine...they are just toooooooo tiny. Ah well, it's all a good learning curve. 
I wonder if anyone has had success with saving poppy seeds for the top of home baked bread? Please let me know the details, as I am interested in the process.

Poppy Seeds for planting
When saving your tomato seeds, leave them on the vine for as long as you can. Allow the fruit to get as big as possible and harvest just before it begins to go bad.
Some seed needs to be fresh when planted otherwise they won't germinate. These include Papaya, and Lemon.

In my garden at the moment

I've been working in the garden too, doing lots of clearing and lots of planting. Here is just a taste of what I have been up to since the course.

Drying the last of the Calandular petals
and harvested Apple mint ready for the dehydrator.

Using the layering method with the no-dig method.

What have you been up to in your garden? 
Will you be tempted to add some edible flowers in your next salad?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chicken & Chorizo with Apricot Delight

Hi there to everyone.....Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and either kicked up your heels or achieved what you wanted to do..........There's heaps going on in the garden here, and I went to my Garden Course over the weekend, so I'll be posting about that sometime through the week as well.

Today I have two really yummy and really quick recipes for you....Chicken Chorizo and Apricot Delight slice. Oh! and at the end, I've shared with you a photo of something new in my garden this year...and that is ........
Purple Podded Peas! 
Yep! you heard correct! I'm always up for trying something new and I found the seeds on ebay. 

Here is a really quick recipe for the nights when you don't feel like doing much, OR want a great impression from the family. I can assure you they will lick their plate clean. (well, my boys did anyway...lol)

Chicken & Chorizo
Olive oil to shallow fry
Chicken Breasts - 1 to 1.5kg
Chorizo Sausages - 2
Chopped herbs
Hokkien Noodles -1 small pkt...........(see picture below)
Thickened cream - 2 to 3 tablespoons
  1. Cut required amount of chicken breast into strips, (I used 1.5 kg) then sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of cornflour over the chicken strips and mix well.
  2. Shallow fry the chicken strips in 3 batches (see step 3), putting each cooked batch aside for later. 
  3. With the last batch of chicken, fry off 2 sausages of Chorizo that you have sliced to about 3mm thick. There will be enough oil from the Chorizo to fry that batch of Chicken.
  4. Now chop up some mixed herbs from the garden and stir through the fried chicken.
  5. Cut the packet of Hokkien Noodles in half and stir through.
  6. Add half a cup of water to deglaze the pan....then add a few tablespoons of thickened cream to make a sauce and stir through. 
  7. Serve to the family.

Apricot Delight - My version for my husband. I've made this today as part of a care package I am sending my darling hubby. I know he will be stoked to have some home made goodies from home.

1 pkt of Marie Biscuits
600grams of dried apricots
2 cups of dessicated coconut
1 can of condensed milk
castor sugar to coat the squares

1.  In a whizzer, add the biscuits and whizz for about 20 seconds.
2.  Add the apricots to which you have cut in half (just to help the whizzer on its way) and whizz for a    further minute or until the apricots are finely chopped.
3.  Add the coconut to the whizzer and whiz until combined.

4.  Then pour the mix into a large bowl or a mixer and add the condensed milk.
5.  Mix all the ingredients until combined to a thick dough.

6.  Using a teaspoon, scoop mix and roll into balls OR spread into a lightly greased slice tray
7.  Cover with a piece of grease-proof or baking paper and flatten out well. (I'm lucky enough to have this sandwich press which I found in an op-shop for $2. (I use this all the time when I make the men's work lunches)

8.  Chill in the fridge for an hour or so, then remove from the fridge and invert onto the same piece of paper  you used earlier.
9.  With the blade of a long knife, cut into rows. Then cut each row into wedges.
10. Now roll each piece in a bowl of caster sugar to coat........

 Too Easy! and definitely too yummy!

This lot is for hubby! But I'm thinking I will send him the two largest containers.
And finally here is the Purple Podded Peas I told you about! 
Check out the one right up the top towards the right....
it hasn't grown up in all its purple glory yet. 

They really are interesting,
I can't recall if the peas inside will be purple or not
I guess I will just have to wait and see.

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