Monday, July 30, 2012

hitting the farm gate trail

We had such a lovely weekend. Saturday was filled with a visit and delicious (if I do say so myself) lunch with grandparents and great-grandparents. Sunday was spent taking a leisurely drive through the rural district not too far from us.

We hit the Mangrove Mountain Country Market. I wanted to check out the local, organic produce and had visions of filling my eco-bags with delicious, cheap, and maybe a little rough-looking fruit and veg. We grabbed some jackets, snacks and the kids and took the lovely drive through farms, lots of orchards. It was nice to have a change of scene from our beachy place to more country surrounds.
I bought some hot drinks and some best-ever-bacon-and-egg-sandwiches and the kids had a play in the dappled winter sunshine.
The market had a lovely array of stalls. We wandered into the hall, greeted by an elderly gentleman playing the clarinet. We saw beautiful local honey, spice mixes, hand-knitted clothing and hand-made wooden toys. And a dog in a stroller.
Outdoor stalls included the bloke with the orange truck, beautiful artisan bread, handmade jewellery and hair clips, some second hand stalls, some goat meat, organic soaps, pretty hippy things, olive oils and a small organic fruit and veg stand.

I bought some pretty hair clips, a white sourdough loaf and a bunch of citrus fruit. Yum!

We drove home along Peats Ridge Road, stopping in at farm gates along the way. One of the little shops was just fantastic. I got almost everything I needed for green groceries, lots of it organic, and all of it with some free advice on how to choose, store, cook or eat it. The farmer running the stall apologised for the state of some of the produce as I walked in. That front table is all organic, he said, That's why it all looks a know. Signs around the little stall informed me that most of the produce was grown on this farm, the rest was sourced from other local farmers. And that these pumpkins were the "Best I've ever grown!" I was so, so happy with my shop, and crossing my fingers I'll be able to find him when I'm ready for more! We also stopped at an avocado farm, and I got the giggles when my husband asked the young chap that came out to greet us whether he had any avocados left. Here is the sum of our Farmers Market/ Farm Gate Sunday Shopping Tour:
This cost a total of $46. The beautiful bread was $6, and the oranges, mandarins and lemons cost $10- they were from the market. The bag of avocados was a fiver, direct from the grower. The rest was $25, from my new best mate. I've decided I'm more of a farm gate shopper than a farmer's market shopper. I think I get a little overwhelmed with the super fancy gourmet produce that my family are highly unlikely to eat. In the end, I still need to feed the five of us on a reasonable budget. My tips for hitting the farm gate trail are:

1. Take snacks and drinks, especially when you have kids in tow. If you are making a day out of it, take along a picnic basket for lunch- perhaps a thermos to make a hot drink and some knives to cut the bread and avocados!
2. Take cash.
3. Take it slow. Be prepared to stop and have a chat at each stop. It's half the joy.

Do you shop at farm gates?

nourish: pumpkin and citrus

I think I can safely say that I used last week's pumpkin to its full potential! Yet I didn't feel that all we ate was pumpkin. We enjoyed:

Pumpkin, Silverbeet and Ricotta Cannelloni
Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Scones

I was excited to see so many delicious recipes shared, too:
Catherine from A Time To Create shared this recipe, for Fetta Pumpkin Sausage Rolls
and then she hooked me up with a recipe for Roast Veggie Soup
Max from Blackbird has Spoken shared how she likes to make pumpkin into a pasta dish: I eat loads of pumpkin, i especially like penne alla zucca, (fry onion and celery, add 1 inch pumpkin cubes and a glass of white wine, cook with lid on until just softening then add chilli flakes and salt and deseeded chopped tomatoes until cooked and stir into penne pasta), hot pumpkin salad (chunks glazed with oregano and honey) and pumpkin and mozzerella arancini

If you have a pumpkin recipe on your blog, feel free to link up and I'll update our little collection!

Now, onto this week's In Season: Citrus.

We took a little day trip to check out a farmer's market on Sunday (more on that later) and had a beautiful drive through some orchard country. No surprises that we came away with a bucket of oranges, a bag of mandarins and some lemons.

The thing is, I'm not much of a fan of oranges. I had braces for seven years (!) as a teenager, and the thought of scraping metal through all that pithy flesh must be hanging around. But I'm determined to get over myself this week, because these babies are super fresh and juicy.

Do you have a favourite citrus recipe? Link me up!

Friday, July 27, 2012

in season: pumpkin scones

My mum used to make pumpkin scones when we were little kids. I remember their delicious crumbly sweetness. I was quite nervous to make them because a) I've not had much success with plain scones in the past, and b) they are a kind of weird thing to convince children to eat. But who better to go to for a scone recipe than those CWA girls?
 from The Country Women's Association Cookbook: Seventy Years in the Kitchen (2009)
Pumpkin Scones
Cream 1 tablespoon butter and 110g (1/2 cup) sugar in a bowl. Add 1 cup of cold mashed pumpkin and 1 beaten egg, stirring well to combine. Sift in 450g (3 cups) self-raising flour, stirring to make a soft dough. If the dough is too stiff, add a little milk. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out. Cut into scone shapes and bake in a 200*C oven. If plain flour is used, add 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder.

My tips:
2 cups of chopped pumpkin, cooked in the microwave or steamed, made 1 cup mashed pumpkin.
Don't fuss with the dough- the less action it sees the better. Barely bring the ingredients together before turning it out, then be oh-so-gentle when you roll. In fact, I didn't roll with a pin, I just patted it out.
My mum swears by using a glass to cut scones. Not a metal or plastic cutter. I don't know why. Just do it.
You could always add spices to accentuate the sweetness of the pumpkin- nutmeg likes pumpkin, but you could add more savoury spices like cumin too (these opinion are not the opinions of the CWA).
You must, must eat them warm, with a slathering of proper butter and the hot drink of your choice.
Even if you hate pumpkin, you will like these. My family had turned them to a few mere crumbs before even asking me why they were orange. Do you use pumpkin for sweet treats? Link me up!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

pageturner: a thousand splendid suns

Last week was two-dollar-novel day at my local op shop. My happy day. A chance to stock up on words. And the promise of quiet; absorbed in the lives of new friends.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. I have not read The Kite Runner, and that makes me feel inferior.

Hosseini weaves the two tales of Mariam and Laila, two women living in Afghanistan, in the most beautifully engaging way. I became so absorbed in the lives and loves of these characters that I finished the book within 24 hours. It's a take-to-the-bathroom kind of book. Reading A Thousand Splendid Suns made me see my complete ignorance about the real lives of fellow daughters, wives and mothers living in places fractured by war.

I absolutely recommend this story, if you are someone who enjoys an epic tale of love, friendship and endurance.

Have you read A Thousand Splendid Suns, or The Kite Runner? What did you think? Are you a book buyer or a borrower?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

in season: pumpkin soup

Everyone has THE BEST recipe for pumpkin soup right? Well, this is mine. It may not be the best, but it's quick and easy, and you can adjust the taste with whatever fancy spices you wish. If you want to be fancy.
Grab these:
I brown onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Half a medium Queensland Blue pumpkin, or a whole butternut pumpkin, skin removed, cut in chunks
1 large potato, peeled, cut in chunks
1 orange sweet potato, peeled, cut in chunks
1 cup chicken or veggie stock

Do this:
1. In a soup pot, gently fry the onion and garlic in some olive oil until soft. If you are adding any spices, throw them in at this point to release the flavour. (Do you use spices? Tell me what you like!)
2. Throw in the veggies and swish in a fancy way with a spoon. Add the stock and cover the lot with water. Bring to to boil, then pop the lid on and reduce to simmer.
3. Grab a glass of wine and let that baby simmer until the pumpkin and its mates are nice and soft. Each time you refill your glass, check to see if the water needs topping up, too.
4. Whizz with a stick blender. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and lashings of black pepper. And crusty bread. Oh, and wine, if there is any left.

Do you have a recipe for this winter classic? Link me up!

Monday, July 23, 2012

in season: pumpkin, silverbeet and ricotta canneloni

The first thing I did with my pumpkin (I think it was a Queensland Blue, it was labelled as 'plain pumpkin' and around two bucks a kilo) was to roast half of it. Cut into small chunks, drizzled in olive oil, a good whack of salt and a little pepper and roasted in a nice hot oven until the very corners go just a tinge black. Now I have a nice bowl full of those golden nuggets just begging me to nibble straight out of the fridge add to homemade pizza, couscous or winter salads.

In the meantime, I thought I would change up an old favourite in our family, and throw some golden roasted pumpkin into the mix for our usual silverbeet and ricotta cannelloni. Growing up, silverbeet was always called spinach. I'm not sure when English Spinach and baby spinach became so much more the norm, but I always feel a bit wanky buying it. So silverbeet it is. Nothing but the best for my family! The roast pumpkin added a lovely earthy sweetness to the cannelloni. The kids gobbled it up without blinking an eyelid. My darling didn't notice that I'd slipped another veggie meal under his nose this week.

Want a recipe? OK!

Gather these:
1 pack instant cannelloni tubes (you can use soft lasagne sheets instead if you would rather roll than stuff)
1 bunch silverbeet (or two bunches spinach) washed, cored, roughly shredded
1 brown onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
A chunk of ricotta (I use the one from the deli and buy it by eye, probably around the 300gram mark should do it)
1 1/2 cups of roasted pumpkin
pinch of nutmeg
1 egg
1 jar of tomato pasta sauce of your liking (or make your own)
grated cheese

Do this:
1. Gently fry the onion and garlic in some olive oil until translucent.
2. Add the silverbeet and cook until wilted.
3. Combine the cooled silverbeet mix, ricotta, pumpkin, egg and nutmeg and whizz up with a stick blender.
4. Spoon a bed of tomato sauce onto the base of your baking dish.
5. Spoon the filling into a large zip-lock bag, twist the end closed and snip a small corner off the bottom. Then pipe the mixture into the cannelloni tubes. If, like me, you find some dodgy cheap zip lock bags, and go through three before you realise they are just going to keep exploding, a teaspoon will do the trick, just a bit more slowly. Use the spoon end as if you are a brickie trowelling mortar onto a brick, then use the handle end to shove the mixture down the tube.
6. Lay the tubes into the baking tray. Roll them around in the sauce to coat before nestling them side-by-side. Cover the lot with the rest of the sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Bake in a moderate oven for about 40mins, or until the pasta feels al dente when you stick it with a knife.
7. Enjoy!

nourish:pumpkin in season

I have noticed, since making the effort to buy only seasonal produce, how very much cheaper it is. But I still need to shift my thinking a little. Where, once upon a time, I would plan meals and go and buy ingredients in small portions, I am now trying to buy seasonal ingredients and then plan meals around what is available.

At first, switching from a big greengrocery chain to a small local shop gave me some serious frustrations. There are no green beans? How am I going to make sausage casserole on Tuesday now? But now I've started to enjoy the challenge of making do with what's available. And I feel like I'm getting to know ingredients better.

My challenge now for myself is to focus in on one seasonal ingredient, take advantage of the cheap cost, buy a nice bulk amount of it and use it lots of different ways throughout the week.

So, today I begin with my first seasonal ingredient exploration: pumpkin. I adore pumpkin. My small people enjoyed it as a first food. My darling tolerates it. I had been in the habit of buying small, pre-cut wedges if I was making a roast. Quite often the little wedge, which might have cost the same as a whole pumpkin, would spoil before I had the chance to use it. Lately, happily, whole pumpkins have found their way into my grocery shop. now it's up to me to come up with a range of ideas for pumpkiny mains, sides, snacks, sweets and soups.

Throughout the week, I'll take pictures and post recipes as I go along. Do you have any favourite pumpkin suggestions?

Friday, July 20, 2012

found: vintage wear

I found the most awesome vintage dress in the universe. For me. My colours, fits me like a glove. Goes spankingly with my new fringey-do. Love it.
Now I will await some warmer Springish weather to turn this baby out.

Some delightful embroidered linen.
A craft project, perfect for a vintage-style little girl's room.

Linking with other caretakers, here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

stick a fork in me

I'm done. Breastfeeding, that is. My body has fed it's last hungry baby. And you know what? I'm tired.

I also feel a bit sad, and proud, and happy and lost.

But mostly just frigging tired. After what feels like an epic seven years (not really) wearing clippy bras and flashing my boobs at weddings, I wore a bra with underwire in it yesterday. It felt pointy and disappointing. I kind of thought I would be like a gorgeous forest woman at the end of this journey, leaping through wildflowers, hair flowing freely, not a care in the world. But the reality is, I kind of feel like turning into a trackie-clad hermit, eating a family clock of chocolate and staring at photos of my newborns. I'm pleased with how breastfeeding worked out for me, and each of my babes, for the most part. With retrospect, I am very aware that I did my absolute best with the knowledge and experience I had at the time.

Baby 1. Breastfed for somewhere between three and four months. I was surprised at how easily he took to feeding, and sleeping. It took me too long to realise he was sleeping so well because he was really, really hungry.
Early fusspot days. After a couple of weeks I could breastfeed and answer the door at the same time.
If your baby looks like this, go and talk to your doctor or early childhood nurse.
It broke my heart when he took a bottle of formula with what seemed like relief and gratitude. It still breaks my heart to look at this picture. Don't be sad though, 2005 Me, this boy will be a healthy, strapping seven-year-old in the blink of an eye.

Baby 2. A study in perseverance. That little guy and I worked like troopers, through illness, death in the family, moving, surgery, oh my! And then, sometime around 11months, he woke up and just chucked it in. I felt a little ripped off, quite frankly.

Baby 3. Is now 14 months. And has slept through the night fewer than five times. I have been up for a feed 2-3 times a night forever, now. Despite the fact that she no longer wants a breastfeed at any point during the day. I walked the edge of tired for so long, and tipped right over into exhausted when a bout of flu hit me a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately for me, my darling was on holidays, and took over the nights while I was busy coughing up my lungs. And it was then that we realised: she will never go to sleep through the night of her own accord while I continually feed her to sleep. So, I stopped feeding her to sleep, which really amounted to stopping feeding her altogether, as that's really the only time she had been feeding.
Breastfeeding comfortably in public- all in the attitude.

Like anything with parenting, I found that breastfeeding was not as natural and instinctive as I had thought. I needed lots of help, with PCOS contributing to a low milk supply. I was(am!) also extremely lucky to have wonderful support from my darling, and other members of our family. I never ever had a bad experience in public, in fact I fed all my babies in all manner of public places and never heard so much as a tut

I know I am going to deeply miss this special part of my parenting journey, I already do a little bit. But I am so very excited to be a better, less tired and grumpy mama to all of my babies. They need me back I think. And I need to get to the shops and buy some bras- stat.

Monday, July 16, 2012

same old, same old

My dad sent me this photo on the weekend. We were chatting on skype and he just sent it through magically. Sometimes I like to dwell on the technology we have at our fingertips, it makes me shivery.

But the photo. It's my Nana and Pop, with their eldest, my Aunty, out the front of their home in Bankstown. Look at my Pop, casually leaning against the picket fence which he probably built himself. I wonder whether the idea of planting a row of roses behind that fence struck him at that point. Or that he would shoo his little granddaughters out of that garden one day. Look at my Nana, hair pinned in the same way I have always known it. I can hear the clip-clop of her hard shoes heading wearily down the driveway (would there have been a driveway there? Certainly no car in those days.) to put the kettle on, maybe change the baby and fix her a snack. Cuppa tea, Art? I wonder how it is, after so long, to not have that one person there to make a cuppa for.

And it's all just more of the same, isn't it. What I am doing, what all of us are doing, none of it is new, or different, or even that difficult. It just is. It just is, being a partner to someone, raising babies, trying to feed a family, bringing in enough money to provide shelter and clothing. Life just is. And it's a great privilege, and a challenge, and is beautiful and hard. And worth it. The hard bits are hard, but they aren't poverty, or war, or prolonged absence, or illness, or rations, or outdoor dunnies, or washing in a copper. So, tonight I am grateful for a whole lot. But mainly for the same old, same old. There is comfort in all things familiar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


We have moved into a new place. The process of moving just a couple of streets has taken an alarming amount of time and a difficult toll on all of our health. Cleaning two years worth of crud from the walls of our old place was quite a task- I became convinced that my children had spent the whole time walking around with a fistful of half-chewed lollies. And a permanent marker in the other hand. Sneezing, directly onto walls. But it is done, now. We no longer live in the little semi we landed in, just to try for six months. What adventures we had there! Now we seem to be fighting the uphill battle to wellness. I am sicker than I have been in years, and I'm blaming all the snot on the rather dirty reverse-cycle air conditioner we may have used a little too enthusiastically in our first week in the new place.

But despite the cleaning, lurgies and looming unpacking (I only found my shoes yesterday- amazing how versatile gumboots really are), I cannot dampen my enthusiasm about this place. We are different in this place. The boys are acting like children, pulling on their boots and playing in the yard. I am constantly scolding them for dirty hands and fingernails, but I secretly love that dirt.
Enough space for our furniture. We haven't used our dining table since we moved to the sea. If anyone came to visit, they used to sit on an esky. So people generally didn't come to visit. Looking very forward to setting this table for guests again.
A country-style kitchen that has been freshly painted white. With a brand-spanking oven. The great big window overlooks the backyard and peeks onto the 'main road' of our little village. I can watch my small people playing outside, and watch the comings and goings of the place.
A beautiful big bay window in the lounge room, and a smaller version in the master bedroom. I've thought bay windows the epitome of fanciness since I was a kid, so as far as I'm concerned, we've made it. Also, the lounge room window overlooks the ocean. In a dappled way, through some branches of gum trees. And is an awesome place for a Christmas tree, no?

In the yard, we discovered a section of the garden that must have been a successful veggie patch. Remnants of strawberries, curly parsley and rosemary are there, along with a piece of wire trellis attached to the fence- maybe for beans? I have a deep excitement about this little patch of garden, but have no idea about what to plant there. Can anyone help? We are on the central coast of NSW, no frost, morning sun. Do I plant now or wait until winter's end?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...