Saturday, 30 March 2013

Easter lunch

I've just arrived home from a wonderful easter lunch with my family.   Everyone brought along some food to share, my youngest daughter made a delicious fruit punch, and the cake I baked was a success.  My stomach is so full and I'm tired, I think I will make a cup of tea and relax on the lounge, no dinner for me tonight.    This was my version of the cake I found on Pinterest, a lot of work but well worth it, as you can see there was not very much left of it at the end of lunch.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Baking for easter

My family will be celebrating Easter Sunday with my son this year, we"ll each take a plate to contribute to the meal.     I've decided to cook a beef and red wine casserole in my new slow cooker,  I've added mushrooms and a sprig of rosemary and believe me the smell is wonderful.    Why is it that casseroles and stews always taste better the following day.     This is one reason why I'm cooking it today, that and the fact that I'm also making the easter cake which will be one of the desserts served tomorrow.     While browsing on Pinterest a few days ago I came across a wonderful cake, it was decorated as a tree stump with a rabbit at it's base, I'm not a cake decorator, I've made nothing more than my childrens birthday cakes before, and so I don't have any of the equipment that would be needed to make this.
joined with marshmallow frosting, waiting to be decorated
My thoughts were that I would make do with what I have, improvise.   I baked four cakes, each one a different colour, pastel green,blue,yellow,and pink, as they cooled I set about making a marshmallow frosting to join the layers together.    This was a workout, beating sugar and egg whites over simmering water for fifteen minutes, then for another five while it cooled.  I've joined the layers together, and cut a recess in the top layer, I will show you the iced cake tomorrow.    I don't expect a masterpiece, but,  I'm sure my family will like it anyway.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Kitchen magic

While I was cleaning the kitchen this morning, I suddenly thought I had to tell you about the little cloths I use.   I've been useing these for just over a year and love them, they really are magic little cloths, you see one side is microfibre ribbed and the other side has a mesh fibre.  They can clean almost everything, including my non stick pans, the mesh is wonderful at cleaning stuck on food without scratching the surface.  I have used microfibre cloths for years because I don't use chemicals, ever since I was employed in a food proccessing plant that also used chlorine as a disinfectanct.  I have always purchased my cloths from the Reject shop, because I use so many I found these to be the cheapest and although they may not be the same as the more expensive cloths, they are good.  This is where I found the little kitchen cloths, a pack of two for just $3 and they are great.     I occasionally soak them in a little Napisan, but usually they just go in the wash with the teatowels, and they are ready for another day.   This is not a paid endorsement, I'm just happy enough with these to tell you about them.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Carrots and tops

Chantenay Red Cored, the seeds are early maturing and can be sown from Winter through Autumn
I've pulled the last of the carrots from the garden, peeled and blanched they are now in bags in the freezer.  I  have six bags of carrots, some of the small carrots I left whole and cut the rest so I can use them in soups and casseroles, these will be enough for a couple of months.  I also have a bucket full of tops for the compost bin.   I removed the ice trays from the freezer to fit them  and everything else in, and now  I wish I hadn't because today we are having another very warm day for Autumn, 35 degrees celcius and I would just love an icy cold drink.    I was watching television last night and saw on the news that Europe and America are still having snow, they should be well into Spring, what the heck is going on.    Surely it has to be global warming, it amazes me to think that there are still people out there that doubt this is happening.

Applique and embroidery

I have just finished stitching block seven of  Leannes House by leanne Beasley, and I love this block, it measures 15" X 15".  I loved the applique in this block, I replaced the original embroidery in the basket with needle turn applique and it has turned out the way I hoped it would.  Now to start block eight and nine, then to get these blocks sewn together and the top finished,  I can't wait to see it finished and hanging in my bedroom
This morning I attended the quilting group, I am going to rejoin, it is giving me the motivation I need to finish the UFI's I have in the cupboard.  I took this block with me to finish stitching a
heart onto the block and one of my old friends came to have a look, "oh", she said." I haven't finished this one either" I was surprised, this woman is prolific with her quilting, I don't feel so guilty now.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Old family recipes

While my eldest son is having radiation and chemotherapy he is unable to work, or do any of the numerous other activities he is involved with.   A few years ago he started to research our family tree, and to hunt down the long ago souls that were our family.  Now that he has some time on his hands he has become more active in  researching where we came from, this he is finding this very interesting as well as puzzling in some instances 
This is one of the reasons I thought I would share one of my old family recipes, these recipes have been handed down through the woman in my mothers family, one of the original recipes is dated 1865.  My mother wrote these out for me just over twenty years ago, copied from her recipe folder, which my dad is now very protective of.   These recipes are extra special to me because, as well as reminding me other generations of women in my family have done the same thing I'm doing now, it is also reminder of my mother.    I'm looking at her handwriting every time I take these and other recipes from my folder, this always takes me back to my mums kitchen. 
Tomato Relish
2.7kg ripe tomatoes
900gm brown onions
900gm sugar, (I've cut this back to 400-450gm) 
3 Tablespoons dry mustard
1 Tablespoon curry powder
190ml Malt vinegar
Cornflour to thicken, about 2-3 tablespoons ( you can replace this with plain flour)
1/4 cup of salt (not table salt)

Slice or chop tomatoes and onions. Place in seperate bowls and sprinkle with salt, leave overnight.   In the morning drain the liquid from the tomatoes and onions and place in a large saucepan or stock pot with the vinegar and sugar stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring this to a boil.  Mix together cornflour, mustard and curry powder with a little vinegar to form a paste. Add to the tomatoes, stirring till it is well mixed.  Simmer mixture for about 11/2 hours till the mixture is the consistency you want. Pour into sterlised jars and seal.  Refridgerate after opening.  A lovely old fashioned relish that is easy to make.  And as my great grandfather said,  "perfect in sandwiches AMEN".

Saturday, 16 March 2013

A memory quilt

Most of the sewing, embroidery, knitting and craft I know I learnt from my mum.   Mum usually had something in her hands, she loved knitting and sewing for her family, as I've mentioned before, one of my first memories was going off to sleep listening to the sewing machine running.   Right up to a couple of days before she died she was crocheting a shawl.   Mum was self taught, she would buy a book and sit patiently reading through the instruction before she would make an atttempt at  whatever it was.   I haven't met anyone else determined or patient enough to sit for an hour or more untangling knots in wool or cottons like she was.   During her younger years she had sewn and embroidered a stack of doilies and tablecloths, but it was in her seventies when she wasn't as active as she had been that she took up the needles and cottons again and stitched small embroideries onto pieces of calico or homespun, just for something to keep her hands and her mind active.   I was visiting one day when she showed me a small box of these beautiful pieces and asked me to incorporate these into a quilt.   I found a pattern for a small table runner which I thought was perfect.    Once finished I was very excited to give it to her,  she loved, it but gave it back to me, something we had made together for me to remember her by.    This little quilt sits on the hall table, I walk past it numerous times a day and always look at it and admire the stitches sewn by my mother.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Mushroom soup

This afternoon while stitching some embroidery,  the son who does everything paid a visit.   He was given a box of very large mushrooms,  I think they are called portabello mushrooms, anyway,  he wanted to know if I would like some, of course, I said.   We had a coffee and a chat and then he was gone to collect my grandson from school.   What to do with these beautiful mushrooms, I was going to bake one for my dinner but then I thought a mushroom soup would be yummy.    I have to tell you it was amazing, and I have some in the freezer for later.

Mushroom soup:
25gm butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large brown onion chopped,  (I only had a small brown onion so used a small red onion as well)
1 clove garlic crushed
1 small sprig fresh thyme  (so nice to go out to the garden and pick some fresh)
4 large mushrooms, core removed and chopped..... ( or the mushrooms you have on hand)
1/4 cup cream.........  ( I had Greek yoghurt, which tasted amazing, but I only added 1 tablespoon)
1 cup of water
1 vegetable stock cube..........    (or you can use 1 cup of vegetable or chicken stock)

Melt butter, and add olive oil to a pan. Add onion, garlic and thyme, cook stirring until onion is soft.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 5minutes.  Add the water and stock and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Set aside to cool, then blend in a food processor or with a stick blender in batches. Add the cream or yoghurt and heat through without boiling.  Ladle into bowls and add a little more yoghurt and a small sprig of thyme for decoration and enjoy.

 If you want to freeze some for later set this aside before adding the cream or yoghurt.
I made some pita bread this morning and I had one with the soup Very yummy..

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Patchwork and embroidery

In 1997 I answered an advertisement in the newspaper that asked for women interested in patchwork and quilting to attend a meeting in my local area.   That was the beginning of my love of all things patchwork and quilting, actually my love of all things fabric, needles and cotton.   Seven women attended that initial meeting, this number grew over time and became over sixty.    I was very active within this group and loved every role I had within the group, from organising the annual quilt-in, the annual retreat, being on the commitee and President for two years.   Then in 2008 I became unwell, my doctor thought it was my thyroid acting up and increased my medication,  I slowly became worse, so much so that I lost a lot of weight and began to close myself off from the outside world.    It was at this time I left the quilting group, I was not able to participate and thought it was better to leave.   I was diagnosed with Addisons disease in 2011 another autoimmune disease, since being on medication I have gradually put on weight and become the person I used to be.  I have also become enthusiastic about patchwork and quilting again,  I have gone through my cupboards and found all the UFI's that were hidden within.    It has been my goal to complete everything that was left unfinished, as well as new quilts for my little grandsons.   I took a big step today, I attended the group I had been a member of for eleven years, and had not attended for the past five years, it was good to be welcomed back.    This week I am finishing a quilt by Leanne Beasley ( an Aussie designer) called Leannes House, it is full of embroidery, applique and patchwork.    I was surprised to find that I have only two blocks left to finish the top of this beautiful quilt, then it will be ready for quilting.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A birthday dinner

Last Friday was my birthday, it wasn't a milestone birthday so I wanted something low key, I thought a family dinner would be good.  I decided that I would do the cooking and have everyone here, I  love to cook, but I hadn't counted it still being so hot.  Usually by this time every year we are having milder Autumn days, no not this year, it is still into the 30c's with high humidy, so draining.  Anyway getting back to the dinner, I thought about the menu a few days before and decided to go with a leg of lamb, a lasagne and several salads.  With the airconditioner and a fan running I turned on the oven to roast the lamb and some vegetables, boy did it heat the house, it was then that I thought a bbque would have been a much better idea.  I have been experimenting with new salads, one of the families favourites has been roasted pumpkin, spinach and fetta, this time I chose a beetroot salad, an orange salad, and the usual tomato, lettuce and cucumber.  I also made a plate of chargrilled vegetables and olives, with some roasted potatoes.  Everyone enjoyed the meal, along with a couple bottles of wine and birthday cake we all had a lovely night.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A glass or two of wine

I have had the worst month. My eldest son who had surgery several weeks ago, now has to start radiation and chemotherapy later this week.  The biopsy result was not the result we wanted to hear, and I certainly did not want him to have to go through the treatment that he will now be having.  As a mother this is a big one, to know that one of my children has cancer and will have to face months of further treatment.  The distance between us is also something I am now finding hard to cope with, sure I can pickup the phone and talk to him, but so much is said in an expression that isn't said in words.  I am planning another flight to visit him and to help with his young family.   I know in my heart he will face this challenge head on, have a complete recovery and a great future with his young family.     I have kept myself busy in the garden over the past few weeks to keep from thinking about everything he will have to deal with.   
The son who does everything has had a virus over the past two weeks, and after several visits to the doctor he was still no better, he was sent to the hospital yesterday and spent the afternoon on a saline drip, make that three drips.    He is at home again and feeling a lot better than he has over the past two weeks.    Daughter number one has had some personal issues to deal with,  and so, I have been spending more time with my grandson.   I have cared for him all day after an overnight stay, she had an early start at work this morning, and thought it would be easier for him to stay with me.     I feel emotionally and physically worn out,  I need a long holiday or maybe a glass or two of wine, I have just poured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, from Oyster Bay in New Zealand, a friend left half a bottle of this wine a couple of weeks ago and I really like it, so I have just bought another bottle.   I usually only drink at functions, and then,  it is only a glass or two, at the moment I feel like I need to numb my brain, eat dinner and have an early night.  Maybe then I can face tomorrow.