21 April 2015

Lately...

Boy, these holidays have been busy. I had grand plans to spend some serious time decluttering the spare room, and cleaning out the kitchen cupboards (I did do a light cull of the tupperware and cookware), but alas, I ran out of time. We've had friends and family to visit, a trip to town to do a big shop, and a beach break as well, so I'm hardly in a place to complain, but we have only had q three days all holidays with nothing on. We need a break from our holidays!


Our garden has all but finished it's summer harvest. We dug out the potatoes over the long weekend, and Hannah collected the worms. We have several boxes of potatoes sitting on our outdoor shelf ready to eat over the coming months! I think potatoes are my favourite vegetable.


Speaking of our beach break, it was lovely! We stayed in Narooma and got upgraded from the standard cabin, to the 3 bedroom deluxe spa model. We lived it up with the kids enjoying a deep spa every night (no tank water to worry about). One of the downsides of farm life is that there isn't much down time, so a few nights away is always welcome.

We went for a drive down to Tilba one day so that the kids could fan girl about River Cottage Australia. I bought some cheese and we enjoyed a cheese platter for dinner that night. On the scenic route home, I saw this super cute roadside store. I really wish we had a little more through traffic here so that we could set up something similar.


Our good friends down the road have a lot of ducks that need eating, and we have a few pigs that need eating, so we are planning a sausage making day once the weather gets colder. Pork and duck sausages. I'm thinking up flavour combinations to go with them such as ginger and five spice for a slight asian twist, or sour cherry for a more european vibe. Last time we made sausages we bought a pre mix seasoning, though it turned out too salty for our liking. This time I'm thinking we will go completely from scratch. So many fun ideas!

It has rained! I probably should have written that first, because it is such a relief. The land has gone from dry and dusty and brown, to green and muddy. What a transformation! Our water tanks are getting fuller too!

We have been talking about building a wood fired pizza oven and a fire pit behind our house. We've walked around the yard trying to find the best spot to put it, and are debating the set up. Next up, I need to research the best way to make the pizza oven. It should be a fun project to get going.

We are heading into a few busy weeks again, but I'm looking forward to cosy evenings in front of the fire. I've finished reading Harry Potter number 4 to the girls. Hannah has taken on number 5 herself. I will have to find another book to read to them. It's such a good thing to do together.

What have you been up to lately? Got any sausage making advice? Made a pizza oven? What should we read to the girls next?

A Recipe Book Giveaway

You know how I love to peruse through a cookbook and get some inspiration to cook up all the produce from our garden? Of course you do. I did a big cull of cookbooks over the summer holidays, but I still have a shelf full of them. All my favourite books focus on beautiful, fresh seasonal produce, cooked simply. Just like what I try to do in my own kitchen.


Australian Country Magazine is launching a new cookbook (just in time for Mothers Day), and has given me a copy to give away to my lovely readers. It's full of recipes that celebrate the fresh produce each season brings. You can get your copy from the your local newsagent (From May 4), or online here. I'm sure you would enjoy flicking through it and getting some inspiration of your own! Alternatively, give it to Mum for Mothers Day (and then whip her up a lovely lunch while she kicks back and relaxes).
To win a copy delivered to you in time for Mothers Day, leave a comment telling me your favourite Autumn recipe! The kids and I will choose our favourite on Tuesday April 28. That way the lucky winner will have it in time for Mothers Day.

Disclosure: I was offered a free copy of this recipe book for my readers. I was not given any form of compensation for running this competition. I just thought some of my readers may enjoy this book.


 So tell me, what is your favourite Autumn Recipe?

20 April 2015

Pear And Ginger Paste

Last time my mother came to visit, she brought with her an apple slinky machine. You know those gadgets which peel and core the whole apple just by turning the handle? They made quick work of all the apples I was using to make apple sauce. The kids have been eating several apples everyday now that they can just use the machine. Something about an apple slinky just makes it tastier.


We have discovered that the apple slinky machine works really well for potatoes (hello curly fries) and pears as well. So when I got my hands on some beautiful pears recently, I grabbed out our slinky machine and had them peeled and cored in the blink of an eye (well almost - you get the idea). I had in mind to make some pear and ginger paste, to have with cheese platters and the like over the next few months. I love my plum paste recipe, so I based this recipe on it. I used the jam setter because I wasn't sure that it would set well on its own. Jam setter is just pectin (the natural gum found in some fruit which causes fruit jams to gel).


Pear and Ginger Paste
Ingredients
1.3kg of pears
2 large apples
3cm knob of ginger'
1/2t cinnamon
1T lemon juice
1 packet jam setter
1.2 kg sugar

Method
1. Peel, core, and slice apple and pears (I used our apple slinky machine).
2. Place into a large saucepan and heat gently until the apple and pear collapse.
3. Peel and finely grate the ginger and add to the apple and pear together with the cinnamon and lemon juice.
4. Add in the sugar and jam setter and stir gently until the mixture simmers and the sugar has dissolved.
5. Gently boil the mixture, stirring regularly until the mixture resembles runny apple sauce. You can check whether it is ready by dropping a small amount onto a cold plate. It should set firmly.
6. Pour into a silicone mould, or a tray lined with baking paper and allow to set. This amount will fill a lamington tin. Alternatively you can fill several smaller tins (which is what I did).
7. Once set, wrap in baking paper and store in an airtight container until it is needed.
8. Use a hot knife to cut into portions as needed.




Have you ever used a apple slinky machine? Love pear paste?

17 April 2015

6 Ways To Live The Country Life... Even If You're Not In The Country!

A lot of people tell me that they would love to move to the country. The allure of the lifestyle is hard to deny, but the reality is that most people can't just pick up their lives and move to a small village and start living the country life. But not living in the country doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the best bits of the lifestyle. Here are some things that you can do anywhere, if you would like to live the simple country life.


Grow your own food
Now I'm not suggesting you start ploughing up your entire yard, or popping a few pigs on the balcony, but whack a few herbs in a pot, or a couple of tomatoes and lettuces in the backyard. The taste of home grown food is so much better than anything you can buy.

Make your own meals and snacks
Home grown food tastes good, and so does home made. Start cooking more and buying less pre prepared foods. Your tastes buds, wallet, and health will all thank you. Once you get into the way of it, cooking your own food becomes quick and easy. You don't need to be roasting a leg of lamb or slow braising your shanks every night. Stir fries, chops and vegetables, soups etc are all quick to make.


Eat Seasonally
Food always taste best when it is fresh. Embrace that freshness by eating the fruits and vegetables that are in season. Not only do they taste better, seasonal food is usually cheaper too. Stone fruit, tomatoes, corn, and berries all summer, apples, pumpkins, and quinces now. You will find that if you concentrate on the fresh treats of the season you won't even miss those fruits and vegetables you don't have. So leave those tasteless tomatoes, and floury apples when they are not in season, and enjoy what is in now!

Buy local
Of course it's not possible to grow or make everything you need, but it is possible to support other local producers or farmers. Head to your local farmers market for fresh produce and home made treats, and when you are in the supermarket buy products made in Australia, preferably by Australian owned companies. Doing this helps keep farmers and local producers in business.


Get involved in your community
Small communities rely on people knowing each other, and getting involved. In our village we have a church, a memorial hall, a school, a rural fire brigade, and a recreation ground, all of which need committee members. It is hardly surprising that many people are involved in several groups. Get involved in your local community by joining a local club. Go to the school parents association meetings. Organise a street BBQ to get to know your neighbours. I love that our kids feel connected to their community, and that there are people who we can rely on should we ever need to.


Let Your Children Free Range
No I'm not suggesting you treat them like chickens, but don't supervise your kids every moment of the day. Set some sensible boundaries about where they are allowed to go unsupervised, and then leave them to it. Our kids know to let us know where they are going if they head out of the yard, and not to go near the dam. The fun they have and skills they develop when they have to solve problems independently is incredible. Even when we lived in the mountains, we were very keen to let our kids play independently. Let them climb trees, dig in the dirt and build cubbies.

Pick one or two ideas, or take all six. If you've ever thought about moving to the country and living the country life, why not start living it now. Right where you are!

What parts of the country life would you most like? What would you struggle with?

14 April 2015

The Golden Hour

After the rain finally came last week, the whole countryside was suddenly washed clean. We  went for a late afternoon drive to snap some photos in the golden hour just before sunset. The Autumn light is amazing.

Fingers crossed for some more rain to turn the paddocks green over the next week!


13 April 2015

Fake Baked Apples

At this time of year, all the apple trees beside the road are laden with fruit. We have discovered a particularly good tree by the road halfway to town, and usually try to stop and fill a bag or two on the way home. I have been cooking up a whole lot of applesauce to have with our pork, and the kids have been putting our apple slinky machine to good use.

When I was a child, I would often make these fake baked apples for dessert. They are called fake baked, because they are actually just cooked on the stove top. With the cooler weather coming, cosy warming desserts really hit the spot at the end of a busy day.


Fake Baked Apples
Ingredients
6 Apples
1/3c dried fruit (I used sultanas, but chopped dates, cranberries, apricots etc could all work)
2/3c brown sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1t vanilla extract
1/2c water


Method
1. Use an apple corer to cut the centre out of each apple.
2. Place the fruit, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix together.
3. Poke the fruit mix into the centre of the each apple, and place in an oven proof pot.
4. Tip any remaining fruit mix, together with vanilla and water into the pot.
5. Place the lid on top of the pot and place on the stove for 15 minutes or until the apple is soft. The liquid should form a caramel sauce in the bottom of the pan.
6. Serve with custard or icecream.


Got any good apple recipes?

12 April 2015

Blast From The Past: A New Family Rule

A funny tale from a few years back for you this Sunday. If you ask our kids what are our family rules, they will still tell you "You must wear clothes in public (that is a whole other story), and Animal Corpses are NOT toys! Here's why:

Yesterday, I put a little story from our day on Facebook. Country Boy had managed a freak of nature and managed to kill a rabbit with a rock out in the paddock with Toby. Toby was extremely interested in the dead rabbit, so CB let Toby play with it for the rest of the afternoon. At one stage the kids were fighting over whose turn it was to hold it.


I was horrified, but put it down to the fact that I am soooo not a country girl. CB took the rabbit away before dinner and buried it. Unfortunately though, burying Toby's new 'pet', was not popular. He came out after bed time most upset about the situation, and wasn't able to understand that the rabbit was dead and needed to go.

Yes... we even have a photo of Toby with his 'toy' - taken by CB!

Hence I have made a new family rule "No using animal corpses for toys". Prior to yesterday I was fairly sure that this rule did not need to be stated but you live and learn.


Have your kids ever found "unsuitable" toys??
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