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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Power Packed Day and Ricotta Spinach Pie

I have had the best day FULL of energy and vitality.
I'm at a loss as to where it came from and I haven't had a burst like that for months.
I felt years younger today.
Could it be I was mentally enthused when I got home from work yesterday to find Craig had vacuumed, dusted some and brought the washing in and put clean sheets back on the bed.
It's awesome to have help like that but what he probably doesn't realise is that the greatest gift he has given me is the chance to go straight to the other jobs that always seem to be waiting.
After cleaning the bathroom first thing I swept the whole house exterior for cobwebs and dust then washed all the windows inside and out. 
After Craig fixed the cap on the chimney flue, I swept a quarter of the roof of creosote dust (very corrosive on the Colourbond don't you know) and then washed out the gutter. I swept the back path and landing and hosed it clean then pulled off the last of the dead green bean vines and saved some more seed.
Next was a big harvest of spinach and greens to make use of more ricotta.
After a thorough wash and chop, onions, chilies and garlic from the garden added to our precious eggs (the girls are only supplying one egg a day at the moment) and more ricotta and into a filo pastry shell (sorry Kat don't have quite that much energy to make my own filo-drawing the line girl) and 
voila (not walah - it's French people)
A massive pie.
I have also made another batch of the Tomato Ricotta Gnocchi and frozen them (gasp!)
(I know but I have to get through all these kilos of ricotta)
AND I have made another Lime Almond Ricotta Cake.
More washing,
more folding,
keep the fire going....and....
I'm done!
If you have read this all the way through, thank you for allowing me to skite and celebrate a wonderful day full of energy. Some of you will be only in your 20's and 30's and you will wonder what all the fuss is about. I too thought I would always have plenty of steam. 
So make hay while the sun shines, it certainly did on me today (literally it was beautiful and warm today Claire)
Only 1.25kg of ricotta to go people and I have just found a recipe for a Blueberry Ricotta cake,
maybe tomorrow....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Boat People - An Australian Experiment

My all time, biggest, most read post is,

In recent weeks, SBS television has aired their series called,
and you can read more or watch the episodes here
The show takes six ordinary Australians and documents their journey as they trek in reverse the journey of a refugee coming to Australia.
They have no phones, passports or money and they start in an Australian refugee camp.
They see life as it is for a refugee waiting for status.
They are later placed on a leaking, rudimentary small boat to make a crossing over the seas.
They are placed in refugee camps in Kenya and Jordan.
Here they are obvious aliens and have to line up for a daily food ration like the other refugees and are subjected to stares of suspicion and confrontation.
The journey is challenging and frightening and an eye opener even for those of us safely watching from home.
The participants make a very moving visit to the family members of refugees already in Australia and exchange messages of hope and love. 
We forget....these people do not have mobiles, they can't simply ring sisters or brothers and communicate. Their days are spent wondering and not knowing. Not knowing if someone is safe, alive or dead. They simply must wait and hope.
This is a very definite turning point for the participants. Hearing the stories of torture and rape they are brought face to face with the reality of why refugees flee their country.
From our safety in Australia, it is hard to comprehend that a people, let alone their government would do harm to their own.
They are starting to understand the desperation that drives someone to send their children on alone in a leaky boat in the hope that they may reach safety.
The participants travel further still going to Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo from where people flee. They see first hand the physical disfigurements of war and the child victims.
This program is heart wrenching and emotional. It is must see viewing and it is a turning point.
I'm not saying that acceptance and understanding is going to be the automatic solution, but what this series does do is level the perspectives, bare some truths and enable people to finally have a meaningful discussion about the wider problem that is;
"people fleeing from their own countries"
If you watched this program, I would really like to know if it changed your perspectives. Did you learn something? Has it dispelled some of the popular myths that the media like to portray?
For me it re-humanised the debate.
4 Corners also had an excellent story this week. They re-visited the survivors from Pol Pot's regime and who have since settled in Australia. I remember that time but a lot of the horror had faded from memory. It was good to see these people again 20years on and they really taught me some valuable lessons.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Almond and Lemon/Lime Ricotta Cake

I found this recipe at Taste and as I only had one lemon I used two Tahitian Limes that a patient gave me on Friday.
So...thus Lemon/Lime.
Can I please indulge in a Nigella moment of flirty food bliss...
I keep a vanilla pod in my caster sugar jar and every time I decant a cup into a mixture I am in vanilla scented heaven, but more....
even more sublime was the fragrance from zesting the Tahitian Limes into the mixture,
so exotic and heady,
very un-wintery.
At this point after mixing the ricotta, egg, sugar,melted butter and juice and zest in the food processor, I have a velvety pale lemon, creamy mass of citrus flummery.

Flour and almond meal is folded in and it is cooked in a springform pan in just 30 short minutes.
I don't know for sure but I bet you could freeze this.
On the scales of good and evil, this is relatively low in fat (90g of melted butter and whatever is in the ricotta) as far as cakes go and moderate in sugar content.
Only three more kilos of ricotta to go!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Fluoride Debate

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Last week via Facebook a friend of mine has been campaigning to stop fluoride being added to the water supply. This is a practice that has been employed for more than 40 years by government bodies in most water supplies in Australia. The purpose is to provide a digestible supplement that reduces the risk of tooth decay for the population as a whole.
My friend and I have had a short debate. I support fluoridation from the view point of one who remembers a nation of poor teeth even in those very young. It was extremely common to see people from their 30s and 40s with dentures. Of course dental techniques have come a long way and we are able to save many more teeth than were able once before.
My friend is a young mother and her children are quite young and growing and developing and naturally she is concerned about what they may be ingesting. She has read evidence that suggests fluoride is responsible for all sorts of disease in society like; asthma, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
There are many articles and scientific studies that prove the evidence for BOTH sides of the argument.
Governments spend considerable money fluoridating water. 
We look to them and trust them to be doing the right thing for the community.
It begs the question; "would our government knowingly poison it's people?"
Make no mistake, we should not blindly accept what governments do, they are our elected facilitators and we should always be questioning.
How do we decipher the conflicting information?
Which scientific study do we believe?
I DO believe chemicals can be harmful and in our home, our environment and our food chain, Craig and I have absolutely limited them. I wholeheartedly support a persons right to live without them.
Having said that, obesity still remains the number 1 cause of disease in this country whether directly or indirectly. As a nation our sugar/fructose intake is tenfold what it was 100 years ago. There is not much point fighting to exclude a marginal chemical but continuing to feed processed foods to our children. From their cereal in the morning to the tomato sauce on their packet pasta they are being bombarded with chemical and sugar. We now have a generation who cannot even drink alcohol unless it has a tonne of sugar added like a soft drink.
So how do we way up the chemical damage?
Is it like sins? Big sins and little sins?
Legal drugs and Illegal drugs? Both surely do damage.
Should we as a society err on the side of caution, eliminate fluoride? It's like immunisation, do we have the right to say it is compulsory? Because that is in effect what we do by fluoridation of water.
What are your thoughts? 
How do we get the information for informed decisions in the face of such conflicting information? 
What about those of you in other countries, is your water fluoridated? 
How do you feel about it?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ricotta Week!

Gnocchi alla ricotta e pomodoro

I have acquired 4 kg of ricotta and it must be used!
Here is a recipe you simply must try.
It is simple and tasty and I would happily serve this for entree to my guests or as a homely winter meal.

Tomato Ricotta Gnocchi
2 eggs 
375g fresh ricotta
1 cup of tomato paste
2 cups of plain flour
butter and olive oil
oregano or basil

In a bowl combine the eggs, ricotta and tomato paste.
On your work surface heap the flour and make a little well.
Add to this the ricotta mixture and work together like you are making a dough but don't over work it.
Sprinkle the work surface with a little flour and divide your mixture by four and roll them into a sausage about 2cm thick.
Slice the sausage shape on the diagonal about 1cm thick and drop into a pot of boiling water in small batches.
Cook until they rise to the top and are tender.
Remove them to drain on a plate with a clean tea towel (cause we don't use paper towel do we *wink*)
In a frying pan, heat the butter/oil and saute the garlic and add the gnocchi. I crumbles in some of our dried oregano from summer, fresh basil would be nice.
The idea is to toss to coat like a dressing but I like to fry them a bit to get a crisp texture on the outside to contrast with the soft doughiness on the inside.
Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chilies, Health and Pregnancy Cravings

Craig harvested all his chilies yesterday and spent the day with my mother making chili paste and "juice".
The jar next to them is from a from a friend's batch of Crab Apple Jelly with chili, very enticing and moreish. 
I recently read a post over at A Joyful Chaos titled "Cravings" where the writer is experiencing pregnancy cravings.
The comments were very enlightening and there were definitely some common cravings.
Many could be grouped into dairy; milk, cottage cheese, yogurt etc.
Tinned tuna I was surprised to find was common too.
Right up there though in first position was the chili group; tobasco, salsa, chili sauce, Mexican chili dishes and so on.
It's pretty easy to understand the dairy and various protein cravings but what about the chili?
Commonly known is the "high" and rush of endorphin from eating chili and that they are very high in Vitamin C. There is also lots of research being done suggesting that chilies are beneficial for boosting circulation, preventing blood clotting and reducing heart disease.
It has shown to reduce the amount of insulin required by diabetics and reduce carbohydrate cravings they experience and assist with weight loss due to lower insulin levels.
It raises the bodies metabolic rate and also provides pain relieving properties for many conditions.
There is even a study that suggests chilies reduce cholesterol levels.
So they seem to be rather more than just a bit of a flavour hit and in fact a really healthy vital part of our diets. For many reasons it's no surprise that chili tops the pregnancy cravings list.
I remember eating tins and tins of tomatoes smothered in tobasco or cayenne pepper while I was pregnant. Tomatoes and chilies are high in the natural mineral lithium so I must have been a very chilled out expectant mother with great circulation and well controlled blood sugars!
Was chili one of your cravings?

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Week Of Resurekt

I have been looking after the shop for my friends at Resurekt this week and it has meant plenty of time to sew in the workroom adjoining the shop.
I started Matthew off on the pear doorstops when the shop first opened and he has made (and sold) quite a few now. He uses scraps from upholstering with reclaimed and re-purposed fabrics and even vinyl scraps for the leaves and "stems".

Claire from Sweet Birdy Love kindly gave me the nod to make some egg cosies from her pattern.
Claire has encouraged me to give free machine sewing a try and I can see how it could become addictive. It's like sketching with thread. 
These lead to a pair of .....
pot mitts,
which match the .....
kitchen hand towel,
that goes with the ......
apron (on the right).
I also made the apron on the left there and ....
this one.....
I'm soooo in live with this fabric. It reminds me of the cowboy wallpaper on my cousins bedroom when we were kids and of my brothers' pajamas.
If it doesn't sell in the next week I'm going to bring it home I think.
I know the photography is not fabulous but I left the camera in the car and retrieved it as I was closing up last night so I could take a few shots.
These beautiful windows look across the road to a tranquil and very seasonal park and to the street beyond of federation houses. The area is really quaint and it is a serene backdrop for the shop.
Here are a couple taken with my phone....
Easily the most popular piece in the shop at the moment. Even my 80 year old mother-in-law loves this one.
It's re-purposed fake fur, woolen blankets and fabric with self covered buttons. On these wintry wet days people just want to jump in and curl up away from the world.
Or how about an irreverent touch-up on a 70's print. It's very hard to tell because Mathew has cleverly added the pink parasol reflection to the bottle and it looks original.
This is one of my favourites. This was original one of those cream stoneware/plaster mass produced wall vases but Mathew has applied his trompe l'oeil expertise (I know! He's not just a pretty face) and turned it into a theatre piece. Very glamorous.
You can also find Resurekt on Facebook
It's been quite a busy but very fulfilling week.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Faces to Names

This week I have been working between my real job and looking after the shop Resurekt for my friends and there has not been a spare moment.
My blogging friend Claire (Sweet Birdy Love) was over from the Big Island and I was NOT going to miss a meet up.
So we had coffee and slice at the shop.
Lee from Killiecrankie Farm came by and also Chris from Chrisartist
Three hours passed like thirty minutes!
We talked about where we work, why we blog and the amazing 6 degrees of separation in life.
We had a very interesting discussion about "ageism" especially in the workforce and the evolving role of women and their return to traditional roles.
We spoke of art and music and children.
Presents were exchanged along with many hugs.
It was like we had known each other for ages...
but of course we have, just not face to face.
We have an elaborate pen pal type relationship after all.
We read each others blogs because we are interested in similar things, so in a way we are already "vetted"
I have included two links at the bottom especially for Lee. The cake we had Lee was based from this recipe
but I substituted dates and sultanas for the apricots and four weet-bix for the bran. I love this recipe, you adjust it to what is in the pantry at the time.
This post
features raspberries but is actually the date slice we had this week.
This recipe is very dear to me; it was given to me by a school friend in about Grade 10 or 11 and it has been passed to many others since. 
Ladies thank you for your generosity, wisdom, boldness and spirit.
It's been a very special week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Must Reads

Photo sourced from Urban Homestead South Africa Blog

From the paucity of posts you may have gathered that I have been a little busier of late.
I would not insult your intelligence either with just any old drivel trying to fill a space.
If I have nothing of value to add then I would rather remain silent.

There are some who have said something very important in the past week.
The first is from Urban Homestead South Africa in her post "Back Then"
Oh out of the mouths of babes....
An overhead remark from a Gen Y to...well someone of a much older generation before they were labeled, gives rise to some very pertinent musings. 

Photo from Mount Gnomon blog

The second is from the Mount Gnomon blog and their post entitled 
The lovely couple of Mount Gnomon Farm are champions of the rare breeds and ethical farming.
They produce, among other things, true "organic free range pork products" from their Wessex Saddle Back Pigs.
Eliza gives a very moving and honourific account of a sow's first farrowing at the farm this week.
I felt every movement and struggle.
Have you ever had someone describe their labour of birthing and found yourself almost pushing through contractions in empathy?
It's like that. 
I have long admired Eliza's photography but her writing is also quite divine.

I am so excited about tomorrow.
She is having a little holiday in the State.
I am looking after the shop all day tomorrow so she is calling into 
Resurekt at 270 Invermay Rd at 9.30.
I have made Date Slice and Lee from Killiecrankie Farm is also coming.
Any other bloggers who would like to meet Claire or Lee are quite welcome to come in and have a cuppa and some slice. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What My Father Taught Me

My Father taught me four important things...

1. How to oil my bike chain

2. NOT to saw asbestos sheeting

3. How to iron a business shirt


4. How to make awesome popcorn.

Thanks Dad xxx

Making Dinner

Making dinner;
it's wholesome and nurturing for the family,
it provides good nutrition,
it saves tons of money,
it allows you to connect with the seasons...
It is also a drag when you come home from work on a dark wintry night or even on the hottest summer days too.
It is soooo tempting to say,
"Lets get takeaway"
NO! Don't do it.
When I feel on the verge of this lazy apathy I get myself up and peel something.
I don't have a plan or a clue but if I just start washing potatoes or peeling sweet potatoes the rest falls into place. Suddenly the steamer is coming out and the is greens and corn. Meat is being cooked in the pan in the most basic way and before you know it,
in less time than it would have taken to drive, order and get home with takeaway,
We have a simple but beautiful home cooked meal.
Jamie Oliver built a whole show around how fast cooking for dinner is.
Even if you just put on a pot of water for pasta,
the rest will fall into place with simple ingredients.
Tomatoes are the only fancy sauce you need, nothing else, no gums or thickeners or any other additives you find in the instant meal jars or packets.
I know we all feel this way a lot of the time coming home from work.
I know when I am like this I get a dialogue happening in my head that goes;
"After all, you've been at work all day, you deserve..."
The old "YOU DESERVE" trick. Don't listen to it.
So what do you do when you are tired at the end of the day and a meal seems like another hours work?
What is your secret weapon in the kitchen?
What gets you motivated?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Winter Woodcutting

Wood cutting is a bit of a preoccupation for those of  us still retaining our wood heaters.
The price of electricity has gone up so much and is rising again that I pulled the plug on the electrical heating.
I quite enjoy wood cutting. Its good sweat work.
We found a fallen dead tree and got a bit of wood but a lot of it had turned to mud.
Nature at work, compost before our eyes, home to many small insects in the life cycle.
We also felled a standing dead tree, now that is goooood wood!

After some good labour, a time to relax and have a bbq of lamb steaks, sausages and potato slices with broccoli and onion stirfry in soy and chilli. 
Sitting back enjoying the "silence"
because there is no real silence in the bush of course, it is just the absence of the human din.
There is easily five different types of birds calling. The rustle of upper eucalypt leaves and the hiss and crack of the fire. 
The smell of sawdust on my clothes from the peppermint gum.

I could sit here till the moon rises through the trees and the frost settles all around.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Caught My Interest Last Week...

I Am Momma Hear Me Roar has challenged us to thank someone who has made a difference in her weekly segment "Wake Up Wednesday"
I wrote and thanked Andrew Wilke for speaking so well this week in defense of the cruelty to beasts in live trade.

And Housewife Eclectic gave us really really welcome advice advice about photographing people to look thinner. Loved it. Some good chin tips.

Sitting On Top Of Our World told us about making basil oil. I am grateful to find another great way of using basil abundance in something other than pesto. Imagine this dressing for greens in the winter months.


And Q Made took me into their summer garden giving me a brief escape from the wintry wonderland I am wallowing in. I'm gazing at snow covered mountains out of the window but imagining I'm hosing the vegies and indulgently laughing at the mud fighting foes in the other hemisphere.

Thank you ladies and gentleman for sharing and teaching me lots of new things.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Past Week

The hat was finished and found it's way to a beautiful little girl who has recently got a part in a musical.
I see lots of cold days in rehearsal ahead for her.
They are exactly her colours and she looked divine.

A few jars of olives have already found other homes too and I'm thinking these make wonderful gifts.

Sleep patterns have a bit disturbed with adjustments to Craig's work schedule.
I've had a birthday which is always exciting
and Mother has arrived home after three months abroad.

I have made a couple of cushions from some vintage bark cloth and fine linen.
They are now in the shop Resurekt.

I adore linen and it was a joy to sew.

Also another apron, completely reversible and in size M
also available at Resurekt.

It looks bluish but the contrast is actually a vibrant purple and also has purple gingham.
I just had to dress the pocket with the selvage information edge.
Again a gorgeous fabric.

A big week.....

Friday, June 3, 2011

Final Bottling of the Olives

The olives have been having their daily brine bath
These olives (don't know what sort) took 11 days.
I tried one and they have lost nearly all of their bitterness.
The next step in the method I am following is to bring enough brine for bottling to the boil.
The ratio for this brine is 1 cup of sale to 10 cups of water
(so it is double what the olives have been soaking in daily)

I gathered together my collection of glass jars with glass lids.
These have been saved from Maccona coffee jars and even as far back as Bushell Tea when it used to come in glass jars. Salt corrodes metal very quickly so I have opted for these jars rather than the clip seal types.
I have seen some clip seal type jars where the wire was powder coated and that may help prevent corrosion if you are wanting to do olives or preserved lemons.
After the boiled brine is cooled it is poured into the jars so that the olives are covered and then a layer of olive oil is poured on top to cover any olives trying to float and to create a seal on top of the brine.
Pop the lid on and store. They will keep at least 12 months in this way now.
When you are ready to eat the olives, pour away the strong brine and fill the jar with plain fresh water and place in the refrigerator for 24hrs after which time they should have leeched out any excess salt.
If not drain and rinse one more time.
Now you can add flavourings at this point to the drained olives.
You could add lemon zest, crushed garlic, chopped chilli, chopped rosemary...
I don't find flavours "infuse" olives so much as they "coat" them.
They really are superb eaten plainly on their own.
It is true what they say about never going back to commercial olives again.
The initial task of washing and slitting was a bit onerous and after two days of brine changing I was thinking "what have I started!"
By day four or five it has become a habit and before you know it the 10-12 days is up.
So worth every second of my time.
The big plus is they are chemical free and organic.

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