26 January 2015

Choc Mint Weetbix Slice

Meg has really been enjoying cooking independently these holidays. Banana cakes and slices are her specialty. We are loving that she wants to cook too, because it means that there are snacks for the kids (and us) when they are hungry, plus we don't have to cook either. She is double excited to cook if we are going to take her cooking somewhere such as church. You can see the pride radiating from her.


One of the recipes she has introduced us to is the Choc Weetbix slice. I'm not sure where the recipe comes from. It's on a printed bit of paper stuck into the exercise book where we keep recipes we like. It's faded and got spots of food all over it. A sure sign of a good recipe.

The other great thing about this recipe is that it is made entirely with pantry ingredients and foods we normally have on hand. At the end of the month, when cream, and other items are getting low, we usually still have the ingredients for this one.


Choc Mint Weetbix Slice
Ingredients
9 Weet-bix (crushed)
1 1/2 c dessicated coconut
1/4c cocoa
100g choc chips (optional)
few drops peppermint essence
1 x 400g tin condensed milk
125g butter
100g chocolate (for topping)

Method
1. Place Weet-bix, coconut, cocoa, and choc chips into a bowl.
2. Melt the butter.
3. Pour the condensed milk, butter, and peppermint essence into the bowl.
4. Work quickly to ensure that all the ingredients combine.
5. Press the mixture into a lined lamington (brownie) tin.
6. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
7. Melt the remaining chocolate and spread over the top of the slice.
8. Allow the chocolate to set.
9. Cut into squares.
10. Store in the refrigerator
 

Do your kids love to cook? What are their favourite things to make? I'm always looking for ideas to expand my girls repetoire.

25 January 2015

Blast From The Past: History

On Sundays this year, I'm taking a look at some of my fave posts from the past. I wrote this in May 2013 and it is still one of my favourite posts. All most everything that happens in our little village happens in this hall.

Our village doesn't have a pub, which is quite unusual for a village our size. The residents of the town near by  call our village 'The Holy City' because it used to have several churches and no pub. These days the life of the village centres around the school, the fire brigade, and the memorial hall.

In the front entrance of the memorial hall are honour boards, listing all the local boys (and a few girls) who served in World War I and II. Surrounding the honour board are photos of many of them. Both of Country Boy's grandfathers are listed. I love to stand there and read the names, and look at the photos of the once young men. All of the names are familiar. The sense of history and connection to our past is tangible.

Over the weekend was the annual hall fundraiser. The community contributes goods and they are then auctioned off. Fruit and vegetables, eggs, jams and pickles, cakes and biscuits, and craft are all sold to raise money to keep the hall going. Country Boy and I contributed a whole lot of pumpkins and cucumbers, some bunches of parsley and spinach, and we made some Pumpkin Spice cakes and Lamingtons.




There are some local specialities that are hotly contested. The honey sponge rolls went for $60 and $70! My Pumpkin Spice cakes went for $16 (very proud of myself ).


We arrived with a car boot full of vegetables, and left with a whole lot of cakes and biscuits. The freezer has been loaded up, and the biscuit barrel is full.

The annual sale of gifts has been going for years. Country Boy remembers going along to the hall as a little boy with his parents, and now we take our kids along too. I hope desperately that my kids will never be up on that wall, but I do love that we are continuing the connection.

23 January 2015

Green In The Orchard

Just after Christmas, Country Boy took me down to the orchard to show me how all the trees were going. Of course I took the camera along, and the kids followed along for the walk too. The orchard is green because we water the trees regularly, and it is a stark contrast with the surrounding hills which are yellow.

The fruit in the orchard continues to grow, and we watch with excitement as the small crops ripen. We hope to have a few pears and nectarines, and a big bucket of apples to go with the sour cherries we have already harvested.

The kids were having a lovely time running around and rolling in the soft grass, so I thought I would take some photos.... only they didn't feel like cooperating. They ran away as fast as they could, and turned their backs on me.

The orchard was beautiful though, so I left them to their mood, and snapped a few photos anyway.



Do you get excited by your own fresh produce? Do your kids like having their photo taken?

21 January 2015

Keeping It Simple | What To Keep On Hand

Over the summer I have been on my usual holiday cull and simplify binge. Each holiday I sort through a few shelves and cupboards, and get rid of anything we don't use or love. I truly believe that keeping a lot of things "just in case" is a waste of space and resources. Keeping something for 10 years on the slight chance you might use it, is crazy.


This does not mean that we don't keep extras of things that we do need. We always have spare toiletries, dish detergent, cleaning products, non perishable foods, and stationary on hand. Realistically, without having at least a small stash of consumables, you will be at the shops most days. Once you go to the shops, you always pick up a few extra bits that you don't need. Suddenly the budget is blown, and your house is filled with things you don't need.

How much should you keep on hand?

How much you keep on hand really will depend on how often you get to the shops. For us, we get to a large shopping centre every 6 weeks, so we need to keep enough of all the basic essentials on hand to last that long. Most people live closer to the shops and go there more frequently, in which case you will need less. The idea though, is to have enough on hand to avoid needing to go to the shops between the weekly or fortnightly shop at the very least.

The second thing that will what you store is the space you have. We store spare toiletries in the bathroom vanity, cleaning products and spare food in the laundry, and stationary in a cupboard.

The last (and probably most important) thing that will determine how much you store, is how much you will use. There is no point storing enough shampoo for a year if you go shopping regularly. Keep just enough to get you through to your next shop. Here on the farm, we typically have 6-8 bottles of dishwashing detergent, a spare set of toothbrushes, several toothpastes, and a spare bottle of shampoo and conditioner. I also keep a range of stationary on hand because the kids will often come home and announce they ran out of glue a week ago, and they need a new one now. Clearly having spares ready is helpful.

How ever much you do have the following will help keep your supplies organised:

- Use a First In First Out system where you put newer items to the back or bottom of the pile so that older stuff is used first. This helps prevent random bits and pieces lurking at the back of the cupboard.

- Do a regular sort and check what exactly you do have on hand. Even if it is only once a year, check what you have so that you don't go buying things you still have plenty of. If your kids are like mine, they have probably rummaged through the box or cupboard and moved things around.

- Make sure you have a designated spot to keep all your supplies. Keep the places labelled and use boxes or containers to help keep the supplies sorted and in order.


Over to you: What supplies do you keep on hand? How do you make sure you have enough without going crazy?

20 January 2015

Summer's Morning By The River.

Last week my sister and brother in law came to stay with us for a few days. They live in China most of the year, but always come home for Christmas. We all look forward to spending time with them each year. While they were here we went for a walk to the river. I had not been there in the summer. Despite the sun beating down, it was still pleasantly cool sitting in the shade. A motorbike ride; a short walk; and some morning tea by the river makes for a perfect summer's morning.




19 January 2015

Stonefruit Galette

One of my favourite things about summer is the fruit. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries, grapes, watermelon. The list just keeps going. We get a weekly order of fresh fruit delivered to the small town nearby every Thursday, and I always chronically over order because I get excited by all the delicious fruits.


Unfortunately in the warmer weather, the fruit doesn't last a full week, so by Monday I'm often looking for ways to use them up before they go off. A few weeks back I whipped up the galette to use up the ripening fruit and served it after church. One of the great things about a galette is that it is supposed to look rustic, so if the pastry is a little ragged, so much the better. It will still taste delicious.

Stonefruit Galette
Ingredients
Pastry
3 1/2c flour
250g butter - cold and cubed
1c sugar
3 eggs

Filling
5 cups roughly peeled and chopped stonefruit. I used whitepeaches, yellow nectarines, and apricots, but plums, cherries, apples, pears, or berries would all work well too.
1/4 c sugar
2T cornflour
1 egg for glazing


Method
1. Place the flour, butter and sugar into a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Add  the eggs into the mixture and process until it comes together.
3. Tip the dough out onto the bench. Use your hands to squash it into a ball (don't knead it).
4. Wrap the dough in clingwrap and place in the fridge for at leas 30 minutes
5. Peel and stone or core the fruit.
6. Place the fruit in a bowl and toss through with the sugar and cornflour.
7. Preheat the oven to 200*C
8. When the pastry dough has rested, roll it out into a large circle approximately 1/2 cm thick.
9. Beat the glazing egg in a small bowl or jug.
10. Glaze the middle of the pastry (under where the fruit will go) with egg.
11. Pile the fruit mixture in the middle of the pastry leaving at least 10 - 15 cm clear around the edge.
12. Carefully fold the edge of the pastry up to form the sides of the galette. The pastry will crimp and over lap.
13. Glaze the pastry with the egg.
14. Bake for 25 -30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.
15. Serve hot or at room temperature.


What is your favourite way to eat stonefruit?

18 January 2015

How To Freeze Your Own Vegetables

This post first appeared in July 2013. I'm about to be inundated with summer produce so it seemed appropriate to share it again.


I've had a few people ask me how I freeze the vegetables from the garden, so I thought I would give you my tips and tricks.

We get lot of vegetables from the garden for the majority of the year, but we tend to get gluts of one vegetable for a few weeks and then none. At the moment we are getting so much broccoli (which we all love), but it will all be gone in a few weeks, so freezing the extra means we can have it all year - particularly in early spring when there isn't much coming from the garden. Of course you can do this with store bought vegetables too if you wish.

Almost any vegetable can be frozen. Many you can just stick straight into the freezer, however I normally blanch mine first. This just makes sure they are not going to go black.

1. Have a big pot of boiling water.
2. Have the sink full of iced water (or a big bowl or tub).
3. Cut the vegetables into equal sized pieces.
4. Plunge the vegetables into the boiling water for about 30 seconds (longer if you are doing things like carrots). I tend to do this part in small batches.
5. After 30 seconds quickly remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon, and place directly into the cold water. This stops them cooking, and keeps their colour looking bright.
6. Repeat this with your remaining vegetables.
7. Lift the vegetables out of the water and place in a colander to drain. I normally let it sit for about half an hour to make sure they have drained properly.
8. Place portions into labelled snap lock bags or containers and freeze.


When you want to use them, treat them the same way you would any shop bought frozen vegetables. I have done this to broccoli, broad beans, beans, peas, and corn (I cut the kernels off the cob first).

For vegetables such as beetroot and pumpkin I bake them on a tray, allow them to cool and then freeze them in a bag. I think roasting gives them a better flavour, and it means I can have pumpkin soup make in 10 minutes when we get home late and the kids need feeding straight away.

Have you ever tried freezing your own vegetables?
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