22 September 2014

Orange Golden Syrup Dumplings

Country Boy introduced me to Golden Syrup Dumplings before we were even married. They are one of his favourite childhood desserts and he wheels them out a couple of times a year, particularly once the weather gets cold.

A few weeks back I made some with my class at school, only I put a little twist on them by adding some orange zest and juice to the syrup. I also popped a square of chocolate into the centre of each dumpling so that you got a nice little surprise when you bit into them. They were so good that I decided to make them again at home to serve at church. They were just as good then!

Orange Golden Syrup Dumplings
1 orange - zest and juice
500ml water
185ml golden syrup
1/2 brown sugar
40g butter

1 1/4 c SR flour
30g butter - chopped
80ml milk
80ml golden syrup
50g dark chocolate

1. Combine the orange juice and zest, water, golden syrup, brown sugar, and butter in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce and simmer for a minute or two.
2. Place the flour in a bowl, and then rub butter into it with your finger tips.
3. Mix in the milk and golden syrup into the flour to make a soft dough.
4. Break the chocolate into small chunks.
5. Cut the dough into small even balls. Press a chunk into the centre of each ball. Make sure that the chocolate is completely sealed in the dough by rolling it in your palm quickly.
6. Drop the finished balls carefully into the simmering syrup. Cover with a lid or foil, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until the dumplings have risen and set.
7. Serve with icecream!

What's your favourite dessert from childhood?

19 September 2014

In Our Garden: Rosemary

We have always had rosemary in our garden, no matter where we lived. When we first got married we were living in rental houses, and dragged pots of herbs with us. Once we got our own house one of the first things Country Boy did was to plant a whole hedge of it on either side of our front path. As we walked past it into the house, we would often brush it with something and release its beautiful fragrance.

These days we have a few rosemary bushes just around the corner from the back step. Again they get brushed past regularly, releasing their perfume. We also have a pot of it sitting on our front veranda.

Growing Rosemary
Rosemary grows pretty easily. It prefers well drained soil, and full sun  - think a Mediterranean style climate. They are meant to be drought resistant which, for us, is a bonus. We really do just whack it in the ground and leave it to grow. It does need to be pruned from occasionally to keep the stems soft and the plant bushy. Pop it in a pot and it will look fabulous too.

When picking rosemary for cooking look for stems that are green and relatively soft (though not floppy), and leaves which are green without any brown marks.

Cooking with Rosemary
We use rosemary a lot in cooking. It's so easy to just run outside and snip a few sprigs off when we need them.

One of my favourite ways to use rosemary is with lamb. Because lamb! Roughly chop a bunch of rosemary together with half a dozen cloves of garlic, a lemon (zested and juiced), a little ground cumin, and of course, salt and pepper. Use a little olive oil to make a rub. Rub it all over a butterflied leg of lamb, wrap it tightly in foil and slow roast for several hours. It's one of my go to dishes when we have guests because it is quick to prepare, and so delicious.

We use rosemary on our potato and rosemary pizzas, and I often stick a sprig or two into casseroles or even spaghetti bolognaise to add it's flavour to the mix. The flowers add a pretty and tasty touch to salads too.

I love this recipe for lamb shanks which are cooked with rosemary (though you will have to excuse the photo which is appallingly bad). The shanks are to die for and it is so easy to make!

Another way we use rosemary is to pick the long woody stems, strip off the leaves (keep a few on the tip), and then use the stems to thread meat or vegetables on  like skewers. Pop them on the BBQ for a bit of infused goodness in your kebabs.

Rosemary adds a strong flavour to food, so generally you don't need to use a lot of it. Because the leaves are quite chewy, it is important to chop them finely if you want to actually eat the leaves.

Do you grow rosemary? Got a great recipe that use rosemary?. We have so much of it growing.

17 September 2014

Keeping It Simple | Pick Just One Thing

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I don't even know where that saying comes from. It sounds like a "dad joke" but I totally relate to the sentiment behind it. Sometimes I find the sheer amount of stuff I want to 'fix' overwhelming. And being overwhelmed is paralysing, which of course means nothing happens at all.

So here is my number one way to simplify your life: pick just one thing that needs simplifying. Pick the thing that annoys you the most. Perhaps it's that the laundry shelf needs a good cull and sort, or you need to create a drop zone near the front door, or your spice rack needs alphabetizing (OK so I am joking on that last one). Now do it.

The key to simplifying life isn't to do it all at once. After all, that is anything but simple. But by breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, life does become simpler.

Let me give you an example of one little thing I did that has made my life simpler. I sorted out the bathroom vanity unit... I know it hardly seems life altering, but it was.

I don't have a before picture, so you will have to imagine it full of unused products I had some how acquired but didn't want or need, and every time I wanted something I had to go hunting through a forest of random bottles.

One day last year I got the urge to simplify it.

I took everything out of the cupboards and drawers, and wiped them out. Then I culled. There were empty toothbrush boxes. Shampoo samples from hotels I'd never been to, gifted soaps, and bottles of things I didn't even recognise, let alone use.

After I culled all the garbage, I had a second look over and got rid of a few products I knew we would never use.

Finally I got out some baskets that I had hanging around, sorted the products I needed according to their type, and put them neatly back in the vanity. It took maybe 15 minutes to do.

Now when Country Boy and Toby need a hair cut, I don't need to spend 10 minutes fishing around for all the bits and pieces, I just pick up the tub with the hair cutting stuff and off I go.

It's been over a year since I did it but still, every time I go to the vanity it makes me smile because I just know that everything works. And although the wallpaper (yes wallpaper) is peeling, and the room desperately needs a paint, it doesn't matter so much because at least the room is easy to use. I honestly can't believe that it took me so long to realise that little systems like this make life simpler.

On it's own, sorting the vanity wasn't a big deal, but it was a start. Once I got started it was easier to continue. So this week, let me encourage you not to try and eat the whole elephant; just take a bite.

What is one little thing do you can do to keep it simple? What's your bathroom vanity like? I'd love to see/hear about what you're tackling first. You can show me in the  comments below or on my facebook page.

16 September 2014

Around The Farm

Spring has sprung here on the farm. It's not a massive explosion of colour like in some places, but if you look around there are blossoms blooming, and flower poking their heads out of the ground. The birds are flying around in mad, hyperactive flocks, eager to drink the nectar and eat the insects.

The days are slightly warmer and Country Boy has a list a mile long of things that need to be done in the garden. This is the best time of the year on the farm!

What is your favourite time of year?

12 September 2014

Four Favourites: Warming Desserts

Even though Spring is now well upon us, we are still in for some cold weather around these parts. Perfect for getting out one of these beautiful warm desserts, and spending one last evening in front of the fire. Is there anything better?

Pumpkin Cinnamon Scrolls
Fig and Chocolate Pudding with Caramel Sauce
Creamed Rice
Rhubarb Strawberry Crunch

What's your favourite warming dessert?

11 September 2014

Our First Time Making Sausages And What We Learnt

Last weekend Country Boy and our neighbor slaughtered some pigs so that we have meat over the coming months.  Previously we have slaughtered our own meat and made our own bacon, but we have never tried making our own sausages. Recently Country Boy's father bought a meat saw and mincer so that we could cut up our carcasses once they have been slaughtered, so we were keen to give sausage making a try.

I spent some time googling the process and reading a book. Yes I now read books about sausage making. The process sounded simple enough. Cut up the meat into chunks. Coarsely mince it, Mix in seasoning (we ordered a pre mix this time round), mince again, then push through a sausage extruder into the skins. But of course I knew that it couldn't run that smoothly (and it didn't), but we managed to solve the problems and we now have a big lot of sausages in the freezer.

In the hope of helping out any one else having a go at making their own sausages, Country Boy and I have written a list of what we did, what worked and what didn't. Incidentally, it is very difficult to take attractive photos of sausage making in a farm shed (look out for our little photo bomber)!

- Because it was our first time making sausagesI decided to buy a premixed seasoning and meal (sage and apple flavoured), and to use synthetic skins because they sounded easier than using natural skins. Next time I'm going to try making our own seasoning mix.

- Country Boy spent an hour the night before boning out the shoulders of the pork and cutting it into chunks about 5-8 cm square. He cut out some of the bigger fat chunks, but left a lot in too (we were aiming for about 25% fat). We used 11.5 kg of meat.

- By keeping our hands and implements wet we managed to keep most of the mince from sticking to everything. Once it had been minced twice it was very sticky.

-  The machine was easy to set up and so the first mince was quite quick to do. We just shoved the chunks of meat into the hole and pushed them through. After mixing it with the seasoning pre mix we minced it for a second time using a finer grid. This took longer. Next time we think we might only mince it once, or try using a much coarser grid.

- The actual filling the sausages was pretty easy to keep up with because it was fairly slow - this meant that there were no air bubbles in the sausages. However it was slow for a reason which we only discovered when we pulled it apart to clean at the end -  there was a chunk of sinew blocking the extruder and slowing down the mince coming out. This brings me to the next (and biggest) issue.

- I mistakenly bought too small skins. You can buy a variety of sizes and  I assumed that the extruder would have a variety of sizes too. This was a big error. We got a spare nozzle from a caulking gun and cut it down to fit the skins but, combined with the blockage, it was soooo slow. We did about a quarter of the mix and then made some of the mix into rissoles before freezing them.

We did keep one large bowl of mince, and Country Boy went to the butcher in town the next morning and bought some natural skins (made from washed sheep intestines). The natural skins were bigger so fitted the machine well. In the afternoon we loaded up the extruder again, and it was pretty quick to make the second time. Also the natural skins were really easy to use. Next time I'm going to go for the natural skins. The take home message is check your extruder size and buy the right skins!!!!

- It is important to tie a knot at the beginning of the skin, and to keep it running steadily off the nozzle as it fills. If you don't do it properly you can get air bubble or blow outs. Fortunately we managed to avoid either problem. It takes one person to keep the skin running well while the other shoves the meat through the extruder.

- The pre mix seasoning instructions said that it was enough for 11.5 kg of meat, but I think the final product was a little salty for my liking. Next time I think I will try making my own mix, or else use a little more meat compared to seasoning

Over all I was really pleased with the results. Once we sorted out some of the teething problems, I felt really proud of what we made. There really is nothing like the feeling you get from making your own food.

Next up I will have to get my Kel from Kath and Kim on, and come up with my own recipes for commemorative sausages.

Have you made sausages before? Got a suggestion for a good flavour combination?

10 September 2014

Keeping It Simple - Easy Ways To Make Life Simpler

When we first moved to the farm, we hoped that it would help us to simplify our lives. It's not that our lives were completely chaotic, but we hoped that more space and less people would help us to slow down and focus on the things that were most important to us.

Since then, we have learnt that living simply isn't about where you live. It's about how you live. You can live simply in the city, and you can make life very complicated here in the country. I have been on a quest over the last few years to simplify our lives. I'd be lying if I said that we have got it all down pat, but we try to make choices in our lives that will help us to keep our lives simple.

What is "Simple Living"?

For me, simple living is not about living an austere life, but rather, valuing and using what we have and avoiding the idea that we constantly need new and better things to be happy. It's about taking practical steps to eliminate the clutter, scale back the commitments, and make choices that give time to what is most important to us.

I'm hoping that setting up some easy systems, a bit of decluttering and organising, and making some conscious decisions to scale back will help us all. And because it's all about making life simple, I'm taking it slowly; just one thing to work on at a time.

Over the coming weeks/months I'm going to share some easy ideas to help us all simplify our lives by finding time and organising the clutter that can easily swamp us. Some ideas will be things I already do, while others will be trying out at the same time. The goal is for us all to share how we can make life both easier and richer.

I believe that more is not better. It is just more. Once we have enough, the extra is just wasted. What if instead of chasing and struggling for more, we enjoy what we have?

I'm super excited to be writing this series. I've had it in my head for a while now, and it is finally coming together. I'd love you to join me!

Do you wish you lived more simply? Got some tips to make life simpler? What things do you struggle with? I'd love to hear them!
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