Friday, 31 August 2012

Finishing some UFO's - Medieval splendour

Well we are all back home again after our week with family in Hawkes Bay. Such a nice week it was, it's always bittersweet coming back home after time with family and old friends.
And we are back to serious business of crafting.

So recently i've been trying to finish up some old crafting projects, many of which were almost done. I don't know why i stop short of finishing some projects so close to the end. I started this quilt, maybe 5 years ago. The idea was to try and recreate the feeling of old medieval tapestry bed coverings.

The intense colours, patterns and generally opulent designs really appeal to me. Simplicity suits some people but i like detail and intricacy.

The problem was i was worried it was too detailed with too many patterns together. I considered pulling it apart and starting again and there stalled the project. So recently i pulled it out and had the same feeling but after some advice from the other half we modeled it on our bed (carved pale wood design) and actually it worked really well. So i'm embracing the OTT feeling of the quilt, maybe i should really embrace it and add tassels to the corners? hmmm too much? then again maybe thats the point!
So anyway off to the quilter it went and now i'm busily working away on the binding. I'm hoping to have it all done within the next week, before the big craft fair, so i can purchase sometime new to work on with minimal guilt.
Watch this space, i'll post a pic of it on the bed when it's all done.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Loving, Grateful...

~ Loving taking a few days away spontaneously to have a break and spend some quality time with my family.
~ loving the craftiness of the Hawkes Bay and this lovely new piece of jewellery.
~ Grateful for the beautiful weather and long walks in the sun.
~ Grateful that my little boy has plenty of time to play with his cousins.
~ Grateful for good food and company.

So much to love and be grateful for this week, I'm just enjoying the break and a bit of time to breathe. See you all in a few days.

Take care everyone.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sibyl's biscuit tin - Jubilee scones

I love a good scone, i don't think anything can beat one for an afternoon tea choice. The trouble i have is occassionally ending up with small rock like objects instead of scones. I just don't have a go-to recipe that works every time.

On the search for a new scone recipe to try for coffee group i stumbled across Jubilee scones in my League of Mothers cookbook. For a start it has a cool name. For a second point it looks a little different to my average scone recipe so i decide to give it a go.

The scone mixture felt more silky when working with it, compared to a regular scone recipe. I wonder if that is due to the egg in this recipe.
Also unexpectedly this recipe is iced. I know slightly weird right? I didn't notice this step until i got to the end of the recipe. An iced scone? really? I'm a stickler for following the full recipe for the first time trying it. So iced they were.

Now come on, they are pretty cute right? Pink icing rolled in coconut. A little more 'PINK' than intended but still good.
Now the important bit - flavour.
I cut these in half and filled them with jam and i can tell you, you will never want to go back to those old unpinked scones again. Ok,ok you might, all scones are good, but these are really special.

I hope you will give these one's a go, they are worth it. And they look cute, did i mention the cute?

Jubilee Scones

1/2 lb flour
pinch salt
1 Cups (C) sultanas
3 Tablespoons (T) sugar
1/2 C milk
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1 T butter
a little bit of peel ( i used fresh lemon zest, cause that's what i had)
1 beaten egg

Sift all dry ingredients together, rub in butter. Add fruit, beaten egg and milk. 
The recipe says to bake in a loaf shape but i didn't read that far until i had already put them in the oven.
Ice while warm and sprinkle with coconut.

The thing about old recipes is they are often very brief in instructions, assuming that you know where to fill in the gaps. Whether i do or dont i take a good guess. So i cooked these at 200degrees C for about 15mins.
For the icing i mixed together
1 C icing sugar
1 T soft butter
a few drops of red food colouring
then mix in a tiny ammount of water until the mixture becomes a smooth, soft paste.

Enjoy with a good cuppa xxx 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Play dough

So last week i hosted my antenatal group at my place. I say that loosely as there is only a couple of us left still not working full time a year on. The weather has been less than predictable lately with plenty of rain and miserable days. So i thought i better rustle up a good indoor activity to keep the little one's entertained.
Enter - play dough! After baking up a storm of scones and biscuits i started on a batch of play dough. I've heard about cooked playdough before but read good things about this easy to make recipe from the kindergarten association.

Easy no cook play dough

2 Cups of flour
1/2 C salt
2 Tablespoons oil
2 T cream of tartar
2 cups of boiling water ( i found this too much, so start with 1 1/2 C)
food colouring

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add in the oil, water and colours.
This is a wetter mixture and as it dries it dries out a bit. If you find it is still too wet you can
 just knead in a bit of extra flour.

Store in an airtight container. 1 week on and it's still a good texture.

You can see in the picture that the play dough looks wet when first mixed but it dries to a nice consistency. 
It looks a little funny as i ran out of normal flour and had to use wholemeal which added an interesting texture. The babies loved it and the mums loved it more - playdough sculpting charades!

Have a great week everyone.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Camembert tasting day

So the camembert is finally ready for eating. Unwrapped out the fridge and so far so good it looks like camembert should.

The texture was perfect, firm but softer and creamy in the middle. 

The flavour also turned out really well a delicious combination of creaminess and saltiness. It went down a treat on a cracker with a little bit of the apple cheese paste. We were really pleased with the results and feel that it easily compares with the good quality bought stuff. So now we are planning our next batch - it will be a double batch for a start! Maybe with a mix of blue vein cheese in it or some herbs....
We really are getting into the swing of this cheesemaking. Some cream cheese was made the other day too, it tasted amazing and much better than the bought stuff. Cream cheese is also very easy to make so we will probably be eating a little more of it.

Whats being made at your house? 

Have a great weekend everyone.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Sibyl's biscuit tin

I've been thinking lately about how baking has changed over the years. Biscuits, cakes and slices have become more complex with exotic combination and quick mix instructions. Growing up we lived next door to an elderly lady who treated us kids like family. She was an amazing woman who tended large gardens on her own, had chickens, crafted and could bake up a storm. Her baking was amazing and i have many fond memories of going to her house for tea and cake. Whenever i would show up at the door, which was probably quite often! she always had multiple tins of baking in the pantry. There was never one choice but always a selection of goodies which she would serve out on china plates.

Now Syb"s baking was amazing for a few very good reasons, it was always fresh, moist and melted in your mouth. This was probably due to the fact she would do all her baking with butter and lard and she baked everything in a coal range stove.

As nice as many modern recipes are i just don't always have pomegranates, vanilla bean pods or dried cherries in the cupboards. But i do always have flour, sugar, butter, eggs and milk. So i've decided to embark on a little journey through some classic baking recipes and techniques. Each week i'll be baking a different classic from old recipe books or family recipes and posting them here for you to see. I'm also going to look at how different simple baking techniques affect baking results.

So to start off - Honey, Raisin cakes from the Aunt Daisy cookbook.

Honey raisin cakes

60g butter
60g honey
1 egg
85g flour
1/2 t baking powder
1 dessertspoon milk
60g raisins

Cream the butter and honey together until smooth and creamy.
Add egg and mix in well.
Add dry ingredients and mix together.
Cook in patty pans (i used a mini muffin tray) for about 15mins at 180 degrees C.

Makes 16 mini muffin sized cakes

Mummy - this is a moist but dense cake, i loved the honey and raisin mix, this is a very familiar flavour. Nice to have a small piece with a cup of tea. Plain but nice. 3/5

Baby - smiles - its cake, he's happy. Inspect cake, take bite. Harder than expected. Take bigger bite with more gusto. Yum raisins. Cake destroyed and mostly eaten. 4/5

The technique of creaming butter and sugar (or in this case honey) is a common one in recipes and i've often wondered at its purpose. I'll admit to being too impatient at times and just melting the butter and mixing it in. So what is creaming and why bother.

Creaming is a mixing technique to blend 2 ingredients together which wouldn't usually blend easily - creating an emulsion.

- Apparently during creaming air bubbles are made in the fat making it fluffier. This adds to the volume of the mixture and acts like a leavening agent to help baking rise. So this helps to make your baking lighter.
- Melting the butter before mixing it with the sugar can result in baking which is more dense and heavy. 

Good to know maybe i'll be a little less impatient now.....

If you're interested this website has good instructions on how to cream, 

I hope you will join me each Tuesday for a new recipe. Have a great week.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Weekending and oven cooked beans

What a whirlwind this week has been, my little boy has been sick and snotty so the week ground to a halt while i took care of him. Work just had to be pushed aside and the house looks suitably as it should when caring for a sick boy - trashed. I am so grateful to be able to shift my life around easily enough to care for him as he needs it. I did manage to try my hand at making cottage cheese though. Looks good doesn't it?

Unfortunately that is where the goodness ends, it was like rubber. Milky tasteless rubber. I'm not sure what i did, this recipe used a mesophilic culture and rennet. It came together well and separated easily but just wasn't pleasant to eat. The cooked curd did soften overnight in the fridge but was still not nice. A bit of research so far has suggested maybe i cooked the curd too long or had the temperature too high. I think i'll have to investigate this further and see what i can find. I might try cream cheese this week and see how that goes.

Also over the weekend I did manage to get to a nursing conference before succumbing to illness myself. So today was a quiet day at home, filled with naps and a bit of stockpiling for the freezer. Yum lots of freshly cooked black beans and chickpeas for the freezer.

Easy oven cooked black beans

I'm loving the oven method for cooking black beans, it's easy and you don't have to watch over it. All you do is soak the black beans overnight. In the morning strain the beans and put into an oven dish, cover the beans fully with water and add 2 t salt. Cover the dish and put into the oven at 180 degrees C for 90mins until soft. Easy and no pots to boil dry while you're distracted with a bubba. Very important!

I hope you all had a great weekend. xx

Friday, 10 August 2012

Pumpkin, chicken and vege pasta bake

I love a meal that is simple, nourishing and healthy. I love it even more when it uses up my leftovers.
One of the simplest ways to make a tasty pasta dish which is kid friendly is to take leftover thick vege soups and use them as a sauce base for pasta. I really like thick pumpkin soup mixed with macaroni, it tastes delicious alone or with a sprinkle of cheese, it is super creamy and way healthier than the original mac and cheese.

So working on that base i developed this recipe, packed full of veges and deliciousness.

First fry about 400g chicken until fully cooked and add in any veges you have. I added onions, mushrooms, zucchini and spinach.

Once the veges are cooked, add in 3 T tomato paste, 3 T wine (i used white but red would work too), 3T water, 1 t dried thyme, 1/2t salt, 1/2 t pepper and saute together for a few minutes. If you want a creamier pasta, which i did, once you turn off the heat mix in 2-3T of unsweetened yoghurt.

Then combine with the cooked pumpkin pasta (i used about 2 cups), add 1/4C parmesan cheese and put into a oven proof dish. Top with a sprinkle of tasty cheese if you like and bake for 20mins or put in the fridge to cook later in the day.

Doesn't that look tasty? Hard to believe there is so many veges in there, trust me you won't miss all that extra cheese you would usually add to macaroni.

It's great on it's own but i served this with a fresh, crunchy coleslaw with balsamic, lemon dressing for a nice contrast.

Coleslaw - finely chopped cabbage, grated carrot and red onion.

Balsamic, lemon vinegarette

Combine together
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
2 T olive oil
juice of one lemon

Stir into coleslaw and allow to sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving to let all the flavours blend together.

The perfect prepare ahead meal for weeks like this when i have a sick bubba and craft group nights.

Enjoy! xx Have a great day everyone.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Preserving apples- part 2

yum , more applely goodness! now that we have completed the apple jelly and syrup you are left with a whole lot of apple pulp.

If you have a mouli, lucky you! nows the time to use it. If not you're in the same boat as me and need to push the apple pulp through a sieve with a spoon.

It takes time and elbow grease but you end up with beautifully smooth applesauce. It's that simple. You can eat it, freeze it, bake with it, feed it to the baby of the house or you can go a step further and make apple cheese. I divided the mixture into 2, froze one lot and made apple cheese with the other.

Apple cheese

Apple cheese is like a solid apple paste. Called a cheese because of the way it should slice. It also goes perfectly with cheese and pickles.

Apple cheese is also easy to make - weigh your apple sauce ( i had 500g) and add sugar (you need about 3/4 of the apple weight) so i used 350g sugar. Add to a pot and simmer, simmer, simmer. This can take a while and needs frequent stirring. It will go glossy and a darker caramel brown. The apple cheese is ready when you draw a spoon through it and it leaves a clear gap.

Pour into moulds ( i use little tubs or bowls) and store in the fridge. All going well it should set firm like a soft cheese for slicing and hold it's shape when pushed out of the mould. Give it overnight in the fridge before eating to aid the setting.

So there you have it, 4 products from 1 batch of apples - Apple jelly, apple syrup, apple sauce and apple cheese.

I hope you will give this a go, it really is so simple to do and the results are so much better than the store bought stuff ( if you can even get it!).
Feel free to email me if you have questions or need any advice. Preserving is a wonderful tradition i hope more people will get involved in.
See ya all xx

Monday, 6 August 2012

Preserving apples- beyond boiling part 1

Everyone who does preserving has probably at some point bottled some apples. It's such an easy way to quickly use up surplus fruit. But a recent post from over the way at Inner pickle reminded me of the other wonderful things you can do with apples. And as it happened i had a bag that needed using up.

Wanting to make the most of these apples i came up with 4 recipes from one batch of stewed apples - jelly, syrup, sauce and cheese.

First up cut all the apples seeds, skins, cores and all and chuck them into a pot with some water. I had 3kg of apples and added 8 cups of water. Boil away until the apples are soft and well cooked. Allow to cool a little, then get set up to strain the juice from the apples.

Tip 1 - use a bigger pot than you think you need as the apples swell a bit and rise to the surface - as you can see.....

This is how i drain my apples but there are many ways to manage this. Get a large bowl and put a sieve in it. Line the sieve with clean muslin cloth and pile in the apples and juice. The juice will drain through the muslin and collect in the bowl below. If this is all you have you can leave your apples to drain overnight wrapped in the muslin or you can string it up on something and let the liquid drip through (as above).

Because i had such a large batch of apples i used both methods. Apples wrapped for the night.

Tip 2 - Make sure your bowl for collecting juice is big enough to not touch the muslin wrapped apples as the juice level rises.

Leave to drain overnight.

In the morning measure out your juice - i had 10 cups. I used 8 cups of the juice to make the same jelly recipe from inner pickle - seen here. This recipe was pretty good but i found it needed a long boiling time to reach a gelling point - about 1.5-2hrs. It made about 6 cups of jelly.

I always boil my jars to sterilise them and then fill them while the jars and liquid are both very hot and seal them immediately. Preserving guidelines recommend a waterbath method to be safe but i don't do this with my jams and jellies which are made with low risk ingredients and are eaten in well under a year.

From there it is a quick hop, step and jump over to making syrup - whatever liquid you have left measure into a pot with 2/3C sugar for every 1 cup of liquid. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 20mins, stirring frequently. The liquid will become thick and syrupy. Then turn off the heat, cool and pour into clean bottles and store in the fridge for up to a month.

It looks like liquid gold doesn't it? Just beautiful and delicious on pikelets, scones or toast. You can use it anywhere you use honey. It has a light fruity sweetness that is just delectable. hmmm icecream, put it on icecream too!

I'll be back over the next few days to show you the finished jelly, applesauce and apple cheese recipes all from the same batch of apples.

Till then, sweet appley dreams. xx

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Slow living - Month 7 - 2012

Linking up again with Christine at Slow living essentials for month 7. This is a chance for me to review the month past and the small changes i have been making in my life.

{Nourish} - Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, overprocessed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.
Cooking from scratch, this is an easy one almost everything i make is from scratch but a few highlights this month would have to be homemade cordon bleu chicken, beer bread and our adventure into cheese making. 

This camembert is still ageing and will be ready for tasting next week, yah! very excited. I'll be sure to let you all know what it's like.

{Prepare} - Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season. Aim to reduce dependancy on store bought items
There hasn't been a lot of excess around here in the middle of winter. I did recieve this week from my mum some bulk stewed apple for freezing but my own efforts have been on the quiet side. We have been eating a lot out the freezer though, including frozen capsicum and corn from summer.

{Reduce} - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.
Old partly made quilts have been pulled out this month and finished off with leftover fabric. It feels good to finally complete some of them. One has been sent off to the quilter this week and i should have it back to share soon.

{Green} Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous. 
Aromatherapy has featured heavily this month. It's probably that closed in feeling you sometimes feel in the middle of winter after days of rain when you feel the need to freshen up the house. Patchouli, lemon and basil oils to lift the mood. Pine, Rosemary and Teatree to clear the airways and ward off the persistent coughs and colds we have had lately.

{Grow} -  What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints. Don't have a backyard? Ask a friendly neighbour or relative for a small patch of theirs in return for some home grown produce, they may surprise you! 
Nothing much is growing here still, just a bit of silverbeet and this week our first cauliflower of the season. There is a lot of lemons on the neighbours tree that have been calling out to be made into syrup though.
This week has been all about preparing for spring, weeding, laying hay and generally tidying in preparation for the busy spring growing.

{Create} to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here. 
As always there has been a lot of creating going on - crochet flowers, bunting for presents and birthdays, more patchwork and cake decorating to name a few.

{Discover} - Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month. 
Everything i've been reading this month has been wonderful escapism fiction. Sometimes it's nice to lose yourselves in a good book. I read every night and can't remember a night i haven't. Recently i've been loving the Elm Creek quilter's novels - light easy reads about a family and thier history all told through the work and symbolism in thier quilts. Yes, very craft geek i know, but they really are lovely books free of the extreme violence and nastiness many books routinely contain. If you haven't read them already give them a go.

{Enhance} - community: Possibilities include supporting local growers & producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group. Car pooling where possible and biking/walking instead of driving. Even start up a blog if you haven't already - online communities count too! Or maybe just help out someone trying to cross the street! The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.
Our craft group continues to meet every 2 weeks and has become a fun group of regulars getting together to stitch and chat. I'm really enjoying the feeling of community and craftiness the group brings.

{Enjoy} Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.
Celebrating my son's first birthday was a highlight this month. That boy is the joy of our lives and it was so much fun giving him a fun day of friends, bubbles, balloons and cake.

Now onto the next month..... hmmmm...... sourdough, grandma's recipes, quilts, sock puppets......


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Party like you're 1

Celebrating my son's 1st birthday over the weekend reminded me of how much fun kid's parties can be. I mean tapas, wine and jazz music is all very nice but you gotta love a party with balloons, bubbles, cake and cherrios (that's a small sausage over here, not the cereal). Not to mention all the gleeful squealing and smiles from the little one's when they see the bubbles and balloons. It really is the definition of joy watching thier little faces. Like many 1 year olds Cohen was more interested in the paper and crawling around looking at everyone than presents. He was however excited to have a piece of cake and was quite grateful to crawl into his cot with his blanket at the end of the day. As i was to crawl into bed at the end of the day.

It's funny how many people said to me, ' i bet you're glad that's over with', it struck me as a bizarre idea that somehow the party was a hassle i had to work through. I can't think of anything i'd rather do than celebrate another year with my baby boy and the little family we have created. 

Thank you my baby boy, you are the light of our lives.