Thursday, 29 January 2009

Dreams of Houses

New House, Moving Houses Property Magazine, UK, 1935
New House, Moving Houses Property Magazine, UK, 1935



In this heat-seared city in which I now live, but which is yet to feel like home, I often dream about houses that I lived in long ago.


In my mind's eye I can remember every light switch, every piece of furniture. I know where the shadows fell from every tree. I remember how each home felt.

Do you ever dream about houses?



Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Drinks, Salads and Desserts for When it's Hot, Hot, Hot

The Pinnacles, Pinnacles Desert, Australia by Christopher Groenhout
The Pinnacles, Pinnacles Desert, Australia


Imagine this. The sky is deep, deep blue and cloudless. The sun burns relentlessly. The hills, lush green in winter, are yellow and bone-dry. It hasn't rained in six weeks. Day after day the air temperature is well over 100 in the old scale. An Australian heatwave.

The last thing anybody wants to do is heat up their house by cooking inside. We barbecue outdoors, eat cold sandwiches, or make refreshing salads. We seek respite in cinemas, air-conditioned shopping centres, in the pool and at the beach.

In the midst of an Adelaide heatwave, when it feels that the desert sun has settled permanently overhead, even my yen for cooking disappears. So today I thought I would link to some hot weather recipes that I have previously published here. These recipes are cooling and refreshing, and involve a minimum of cooking.



Drinks

Moroccan Mint Iced Tea
My Perfect Iced Coffee
Sweet Southern Iced Tea
Japanese Slipper


Salads

Easy Poached Chicken Salad
Easy Chicken Salad Sandwich Filling
How to Create a Sensational Salad

Desserts

Pink Ice Cream Cake
Chocolate Blancmange
Frozen Butter Pecan Mousse
Rich, Creamy Chocolate Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker



For more kitchen tips visit Kitchen Tip Tuesday at www.tammysrecipes.com






Sunday, 25 January 2009

Blackberrying

A hot summer's day and an invitation to Sunday lunch in the Adelaide hills: the perfect opportunity to go blackberrying.

Blackberries are considered a noxious weed in Australia. Often the brambles found in the wild have been sprayed with toxic chemicals, so if you want blackberries you have to make friends with someone who has them on their private land. Our friends have 16 acres of organic stone fruit and apple orchards, along with more blackberries than they really desire.

The kids started picking with us before the thorns deterred them. My husband and I persevered and collected a large ice cream container full.



Unfortunately, the berries barely made it home. The kids decided that eating blackberries is far preferable to picking them.



As I have scratches all up and down my arms I am inclined to agree!


I think the remaining berries will be perfect with cream for dessert tonight, don't you?





Saturday, 24 January 2009

Our Hot-and-Summery, First Week Back at School Menu Plan




D'you know, this is the first time that I have ever posted a week's menu plan on my blog. I know lots of people participate in Menu Plan Monday, but I mostly shop on a Friday so I have usually totally forgotten about menu-planning by Monday.

And yes, I do know that today is not Monday; I'll link to Menu Plan Monday next week. If this post interests you, let me know and I'll post our menus more often.

This week is going to be an unusual one. Three of my children return to school after the summer break on Monday and the fourth goes back on Thursday. Monday is the Australia Day public holiday so all six of us will be at home. We may be going to the one-day cricket game against South Africa on Monday, depending on the weather forecast (it could be too hot), so that will affect what we eat. If we go we will take bottles of water from home and a picnic lunch.

You will notice that there are lots of peaches and bananas on this week's menu. The reasons for this are that we have a glut of back yard peaches, and bananas brown very fast in Adelaide's extreme summer heat, so I often have to look for ways to use them up fast.

I have linked to recipes that I have previously published.

Breakfasts

variations of:
cold cereal
smoothies
bran and raisin muffins
banana muffins
porridge if it's cool enough
possibly eggs or pancakes on the weekend

Snacks

yogurt
wholemeal crackers (Premiums)
seaweed rice crackers and hommus
muffins (see breakfasts)
dessert leftovers
muesli bars (for school only, bought on sale)
orange or banana cake
fresh summer fruit

Lunches

sandwiches, leftovers, and selections from the snacks list above

Dinners

BBQ lamb chops
sauteed potatoes
grilled tomatoes and eggplant
banana splits
***
corn on the cob
green beans
peach banana sundaes
***
grilled (BBQ'd) marinated chicken
macaroni and cheese with tomatoes
peas
***
crockpot meatballs in tomato sauce
spaghetti
green salad
canteloupe and watermelon
***
jacket potatoes with tuna mornay and grated cheese on top
peas and carrots
peach pie and ice cream
***

Australia Day
Aussie meat pie (home made)
broccoli and carrots
peaches and ice cream
maybe lamingtons (if I make them I'll post the recipe)


How to Make Peach Jam

The last week of the summer holidays is now over. We filled it to the hilt with swimming, playing tennis, bike rides, a movie, and a game of ten-pin bowling. Adding to the fun was the welcome company of cousins visiting from Sydney and my daughter's best friend, visiting from Melbourne.

Yesterday my daughter and her friend helped me make a large supply of peach jam from the laden peach tree in our back yard. The girls peeled and sliced dozens of peaches after I blanched them, and turned a tedious job into a pleasure.

Here is the recipe we used. As it dates from the 1940s, the instructions are fairly spartan. You can, of course, increase the quantities as necessary. We used about 4 kg fruit which became 3 kg once skinned and stoned, and we used an equal amount (3 kg) of sugar.

Peach Jam

Peaches

3/4-1 pound sugar

Wash peaches, dip in boiling water for about 1/2 minute and plunge into cold water. Slip off skins, cut fruit into halves and discard stones. Use 1 pound prepared fruit. Crush fruit and arrange in layers with sugar. Let stand 3 to 4 hours, then heat slowly until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly, until fruit is clear and jam is thick. Pour into sterilised glasses and seal. Makes 3 (6-ounce) glasses.


Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Romograut for Breakfast

Spring Wheat Field by Jacqueline Penney

Nissa brought a platter of fresh bacon, another of toast, and five
bowls of something that looked like hot school paste. While Theodore said the
prayer -- again in Norwegian -- Linnea stared down into her bowl and wondered
what it was. It had no smell, no color, and no attraction. But when the prayer
ended, she watched the others to see what she was supposed to do with the
glutinous mess. Thay slathered theirs with pure cream and sugar, then decorated
it with butter, so she followed suit and cautiously took a taste.

It was delicious! It tasted like vanilla pudding.

La Vyrle Spencer, Years

I am currently reading La Vyrle Spencer's Years, an op shop find, and am thoroughly enjoying it. Years is set in a Norwegian wheat farming community in North Dakota in 1917, and is the story of the love that develops between a young school teacher and a grief-ridden farmer in whose home she boards. I was fascinated by the above description of "Romograut" and googled the recipe.

These recipes are what I discovered in the Tastes of Home Forum (click and this link will take you there). It looks very rich and fattening, and sounds quite delicious.

SYTTENDE MAI ROMMEGROT

1 quart cream

1 tsp salt

1 cup of flour

1 quart milk (2% or whole)

Over moderate heat use a heavy kettle to heat the cream for 15-20
minutes. Use a whip to add the flour and salt. Continue cooking and beating
until butter forms. Carefully drain the butter into a small dish or pitcher.
Continue beating as the cream separates. Heat the milk in a glass pitcher in the
microwave for 5-7 minutes. Add about a cup of the milk to the cream at a time
and whip until smooth each time. When all the milk is included continue
beeting/whipping for 3-4 minutes (yellowish-cream color). All of this is done
over moderate - never high heat. Then pour the grot into a dish or storage
container and pour the melted butter over it. Never make more than a single
batch at a time. A double batch fits into an ice cream pail and freezes well.
Brown sugar and cinnamon are tasty toppings.

MICROWAVE ROMMEGROT

1 cup butter

1 cup all purpose flour

2 cups half and half

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

Melt butter in large microwave safe bowl. Stir in flour with wire
whisk. Cook until mixture bubbles: cook 30 seconds longer. Heat Half and Half
and milk together, slowly add to flourmixture. Stir with wire whisk while
mixing. Return to microwave until mixture begins to boil, about 2 minutes.
Remove from microwave, stir in sugar and salt. Microwave 30 seconds longer. Add
more hot milk if necessary to reach desired consistency. Serve warm with melted
butter, cinnamon and sugar, if desired.

Have you ever eaten Romograut or Rommegrot? What did you think?



Saturday, 17 January 2009

Three Food Mysteries

The Strand: Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot by Jack M. Faulks
The Strand: Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot

I spend a lot of time thinking about food. I think about menu planning, budgeting, cooking and, most of all, eating. I often blog about food. I read cookbooks for fun and sometimes I even take them to bed. Oh, honey!

Recently I have pondered some of life's great food mysteries. Let me know if you have any answers.

1. Where do teenage boys put their food?

I'd love to have the answer to this. I know some of the food they inhale in massive quantities goes towards growth, but where does the rest of it go? Even young men of 18 or 19 who have stopped growing can often eat enormous amounts of truly revolting food and stay skinny as a rake.

I want to know where they put their food so that I can put some there too. Now I am in my late 30s, food seems to be clinging to me in all the wrong places.

If you know where all the teenage-boy food goes, please tell me and we'll market it to all those teenage boys' mothers. I'm sure we'll make millions.

On a more serious note...

2. Why is healthy food so much more expensive than processed food?

It's true, fresh produce is more expensive both by weight and by calorie than processed junk food.

Here is an article about The High Price of Healthy Food.

According to a debate at Star Chefs:

Low-income Americans tend to eat high-calorie, processed foods because they
are relatively cheap compared to fresh foods. A recent study published in the
American Journal for Clinical Nutrition linked obesity, fat and sugar
consumption and the low cost of such “energy-dense” foods: fattening foods are
cheaper.


The freshest foods are now luxury foods. Elite restaurants no longer
serve caviar or choucroute garni to demonstrate their culinary sophistication.
Instead, they offer discerning customers heirloom vegetables picked that morning
or day-boat scallops just plucked from their shells. These days, we consider
utterly unadulterated food to be both precious and good for us.

Apparently, until about 20 years ago manufactured food was more expensive, and more likely to be regarded as a luxury, but since then fresh food has taken over. Why is this? I still don't understand why an apple is more expensive per gram than an apple pie. Surely more labour and transport costs are involved in pre-cooking the apples, baking the pie, then packaging and sending it to the supermarket?

3. Why is skim milk more expensive than whole milk?

At most Australian supermarkets, the cheapest generic skim milk is between 10 and 20 cents more expensive per litre than generic whole milk. In named brands the gap can be much higher.

Why is this? Haven't they taken something out? I don't understand the reasoning behind this at all. Both types of milk are pasteurised and homogenised, so the level of processing isn't greatly different.

Do you ever ponder the mysteries of food production in the 21st century? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Friday, 16 January 2009

Fresh Peach and Ginger Crumble

Earlier this week my dear 90-something neighbour Mrs Trott delivered a large bag of fresh peaches from her back yard peach tree. Don't you think that Mrs Trott is the perfect name for a lively, busy, sweet, old lady? At Christmas she came with a basket of home-grown apricots that were eaten with great relish.

Mrs Trott warned me that the peaches were a little floury and tart for fresh eating but would be lovely cooked. So yesterday I made this fresh peach and ginger crumble. The ginger married beautifully with the peaches.

When I cook soft summer fruits in a crumble I don't pre-cook the fruit. However, if you were using apples you might like to stew them in advance. For apples I would substitute cinnamon for the ginger.

This recipe speaks 'summer' to me. It's perfect served with a dollop of thick cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

To peel your peaches follow these instructions.

Please note:
The quantities in this recipe are very flexible. I had about 8 or 9 cups of fruit so I doubled the quantity of crumble mixture; these quantites made a lasagne dish-sized crumble.

Fresh Peach and Ginger Crumble

Filling

about 3 cups sliced, peeled fresh peaches
brown sugar

Crumble Topping

1/2 C brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 C butter, softened
1 C pl flour

Grease a dish that will fit the quantity of fruit you have available. Mix sliced, peeled peaches with a handful of brown sugar, although if the peaches are very sweet you may use less.

In a bowl mix remaining dry ingredients. Rub in butter with your fingertips then scatter the crumble topping mixture over the fruit.

Bake in a moderate oven for 40-50 minutes until topping is golden and bubbling at the edges.


Thursday, 15 January 2009

How to Peel a Peach


I usually prefer nectarines to peaches because I don't like to eat the fuzzy peach skins. Moreover, peaches are the very devil to peel. However, there is one very easy trick that will enable you to peel large numbers of peaches in no time at all.
I have found that this blanching method works best with very ripe peaches.

Here's how.

Boil a saucepan of water. Have another bowl nearby filled with cold water. Now put 4 or 5 peaches in the boiling water and leave for one or two minutes. Then scoop the peaches out of the pan and put in the cold water.

The peach skins should just slither off and the peaches won't be cooked inside so you can still use them in salads. Large numbers of peaches can be processed this way for canning or for any cooked peach recipes, like the fresh peach and ginger crumble recipe that I am going to share with you tomorrow.

For more kitchen tips visit Kitchen Tip Tuesday at www.tammysrecipes.com.


Monday, 12 January 2009

Forgotten Years

Les Montres Molles by Salvador Dali



Do you have forgotten years? Years that have simply disappeared from your memory?

Last night, during our wedding anniversary dinner, my husband and I tested each other on what we remember from the years of our marriage. What could we remember from 1992, or 1998, or 2006, for example?

Frequently the answer was "not much". The years when a baby was born, or we moved house, or someone in the family died or became ill, were easy to remember. However, there were some years that seem to have disappeared, or as Harry Potter would say, 'disapparated'. Puff! We lived them and then they were gone.

At first I felt sad that some years had apparently disappeared. But after a while I realised that this uneventfulness was a blessing. Those must have been years of peace and happiness when, if nothing particularly memorable happened, then at least nothing went horribly wrong.

During the 1950s many social commentators criticised the banality of suburban and small-town life. It was considered almost contemptible to want peace and a simple, comfortable life in a little house with a garden after the upheavals of the Depression and World War II. Yet for many returned soldiers and their families the calm of suburbia was indeed domestic bliss.

These days also, the yearning for a simple, uneventful life is seen as somehow banal and woeful. Yet who among us really wants to experience year after year of sadness, tragedy, dislocation and stress? For they are often the things that stay fixed in our memories.

2008 was an eventful year for our family. Like many others world-wide we experienced job insecurity and so were forced to move away to seek greener pastures elsewhere. We sold our home and moved to a new state where we knew no-one. All our children started at new schools, which brought an extra level of stress and uncertainty. Were we making the right decisions? We prayed and hoped so.

However, I am ready for a quiet year, a peaceful year in which we find a home to buy, create a new nest, and live without too much excitement ... for a while at least!



Awards

Yesterday, lovely Jen from Fiddle-Dee-Dee honoured me with the "Lemonade Award". As we are in the midst of a heatwave and it's going to be 41 degrees celsius here tomorrow (106 F), an ice-cold glass of lemonade is just what the doctor ordered.






As stated on Jen's blog, this award comes with a few rules:

Put the logo on your blog or post.

Nominate at least 10 blogs which show GREAT ATTITUDE and/or GRATITUDE!

Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

I bestow this award to the following great ladies:


Little Jenny Wren


Lightening Online


Beyond My Picket Fence


Whistlestop Cafe Cooking


Daisy Cottage


Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood


Little Red House


Towards Sustainability


Loving Life


JoyfulHomeMaker


Also yesterday my good friend Kirstin over at Loving Life gave me the "One Lovely Blog Award".


I'd like to pass this award on to darling Becky at Sweet Cottage Dreams who has an adorable blog and in addition is one of the nicest people you are ever likely to meet, and Jen at TheOldPaintedCottage.com who is fabulously creative and is the force behind The Cottage of the Month.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Oh My Goodness, 18 Years!

Two Children Carry a Love Letter, To My Little Sweetheart

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. Eighteen, can you believe it? Of course, I was 6 1/2 on my wedding day;-)


Tonight B and I are going out for dinner. I haven't been told where; it's a surprise. My neighbour is babysitting. As she is also my landlady, I spent this afternoon cleaning the house. It's worth it for a rare night out!


Eighteen years is such a long time, almost half my life (I was actually 21 when we married). In that time we have travelled overseas and had four children. We have lived in New South Wales, Victoria and now South Australia. And we have so much more to look forward to.

I feel truly blessed.


(Thank you to Jen and Kirstin for blog awards today; I'll post about them tomorrow, when all the anniversary excitement is over.)




Thursday, 8 January 2009

Slow Cooker Porridge Disaster -- Help!

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Oh, dear, what would Goldilocks think?

Last night I tried to make slow cooker porridge for the first time. I scoured the internet for recipes, and as they varied greatly in the quantity of liquids needed I went about half way.

Into the slow cooker I put 3 cups whole rolled oats (not instant), 4 cups milk and 4 cups water, along with a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of salt (we add brown sugar to taste after cooking).

I put the slow cooker on low at about 10.30 pm and woke at 7 to an unappetising mess. The porridge was thick and gluggy with a strange taste, even after adding the sugar.

Around the edges the porridge was bubbling, brown and stuck. It took me several attempts at soaking and scrubbing and a few hours to clean the slow cooker bowl.

So please, tell me where I went wrong?

Would greasing the bowl have made any difference? None of the porridge or oatmeal recipes I've seen call for greasing, but I never want to do such an awful clean-up job again.

What should I have done differently?





My Usual Porridge Recipe (NO slow cooker)

about 1/2 C whole rolled oats per person
water
milk
cinnamon
brown sugar
pinch salt
cream or extra milk
grated apple, nuts or raisins (optional)

Put oats in a saucepan. Pour over cold water until just covered and a little extra (maybe 1-2 cm or 1/2"), and leave overnight, or cover with boiling water, put the lid on, and leave for about 30 minutes. In this time the oats will swell and soak up most of the water.

Add cinnamon, salt and an extra 1-2 cm milk. I know this is not exact, but you don't need to be. If it looks too thick, add extra milk.
You could also pop in a grated apple, some nuts or some raisins if you like. Cook stirring until porridge has thickened and is just simmering. Simmer very gently for a few minutes. Stir in brown sugar to taste, then serve. Extra brown sugar and cream or milk can be added at the table.



Wednesday, 7 January 2009

New Year's Resolution: Acknowledge Blog Awards More Often

Bad Girls
I have been a very bad blogger.

Late last year I was given several blog awards which I planned to acknowledge. Really I did. However, I never got around to it in the Christmas rush.

I sincerely apologise to the ladies who gave me those awards. I greatly appreciate your kindness in thinking of me.

Anyhoo, I have resolved not to be so negligent in 2009. I am going to try to acknowledge awards the day I get them.

So thank you to Sorcha for awarding me the "Marie Antoinette Keeping it Real Award" earlier today. I'm not quite sure of the history of this award, but it seems to be for someone who blogs, honestly, 'warts and all'.

Marie Antoinette was one of history's charming sinners, and lost her head for it.


I, on the other hand, often run around like a headless chook, so you see we have something in common. Oh, and for those readers who aren't Aussies, a chook is a chicken.

I'd like to give this award to:

White_Lilly

SIMPLY STORK

Firelein tomFoolery

Sunflowers and Hydrangeas

Scraps


Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

A (Stinky) Post-Christmas Reminder

Mom and Kids by the Fridge
Do you have any Christmas leftovers still living in your fridge? If so, now is the time to get rid of them. My hunch is that if you haven't made soup from those bones by now, you probably aren't going to. They'll still be haunting you in another week, except by then you'll be able to smell them ... every time you open the door.

While you're at it, get rid of anything else that is past its use-by date, declutter any wilting greens from your vegetable crisper and wipe up any spills. Finally, to give your fridge an extra touch of freshness, pour a few drops of vanilla onto a clean, damp sponge and wipe your shelves over again.


For more kitchen tips visit Kitchen Tip Tuesday at www.tammysrecipes.com .

Friday, 2 January 2009

January Cottage of the Month

I was thrilled to discover Jen's Cottage of the Month for January 2009. Decorated like a Scottish hunting lodge, this is the perfect home for curling up before a roaring fire with a leather-bound book in one hand, a hot toddy or a Scotch whisky in the other, and an adorable Scotty dog at your feet.

This Cottage is a genuine expression of its owners' interests and passions, and therefore is quite unique. It holds many, many treasures that draw the eye and make one want to keep looking at it.

Making January's Cottage of the Month even more special is that the photographer is my dear blog-friend, Becky from Sweet Cottage Dreams. Becky's own home was Cottage of the Month in July 2007, and her blog is also full of interesting and quirky decorating ideas.


Isn't this the most adorable stove you have ever seen?



Thursday, 1 January 2009

A Lazy Start to 2009

A Happy New Year - Girl atop a Clock


I am pooped. Totally and utterly. 2008 ended with a flurry of very welcome visitors who have given us the most wonderful of holiday seasons. The only downside is that I feel that I have been cooking and cleaning non-stop for the past month.

So today is a day for utter slothfulness: a sleep-in, pyjamas until lunchtime, then an all-too-rare hot and sudsy bath with a Jill Mansell novel from the library. Our meals today are all leftovers, and, sshhh!, don't tell anyone, but it's almost 3 pm and none of the beds are made. How can I make my bed when my husband is having a siesta in it?

Oh, bliss.

Have you made new year's resolutions?

I haven't. I have goals for the year (buy a house, find a part-time job etc.,), but they are long-term plans that aren't new. How can I begin on New Year's resolutions when I can barely stay awake?

Perhaps tomorrow I'll think of some. Or maybe not...

Happy New Year to you and your family!