update on the preserves, and news.

Don’t freak out. My news is not that I’m pregnant. (why does everyone jump to that conclusion when I say I have news? Just because I am 25 and in a stable relationship doesn’t mean I’m popping out babies.)

So my pickles from last week worked out. I like the broccoli stems the most – the turnips have a lovely colour but a tad too much bite for my taste. The broccoli was lovely and a more gentle vinegar taste, with a touch of sweetness. Gary liked the opposite, for the same reason.

My marmalade also ended up setting more as it cooled. It’s not completely solid, but it’s thick enough not to have to get it out with a spoon. I’m happy. It’s pretty tasty.

In other news, I got a promotion at work. I don’t talk about work here generally, but I feel like I want to share my excitement. My program manager is going on maternity leave, so I applied for, and was offered the job. It’s a good experience for me to step up, and pretty exciting for me in terms of my social work career. I feel pretty settled in my current role, so it’s time to mix things up a bit and set myself a challenge.

I will start when I get back from our trip to Nepal. Which is in a couple of weeks. We have so much stuff still to buy (I need a new daypack, since mine finally died. Also little things like pocket knives and head torches. And hopefully some sort of solar charger for my camera.)

Everything should be finalised with the travel agent now. It’s just organising our gear and actually getting to and from the airport that we need to sort out now. I’m exited and nervous, because it will physically be the biggest thing I’ve ever done. 18 days of trekking around the Himalayas? challenge accepted.

A morning walk

It has been a wonderful spring morning. So whilst Gary went to training, I packed myself a backpack with a picnic blanket, an orange, some other munchies and a few bottles of water (only one to drink – the others were for weight). I drove up to federation Hill, and went for a walk. I walked along the base for a while, then climbed a relatively steep section. I ended up walking about 2 hours all up, heading out further than I have along the track.

It was lovely. Sunny, peaceful, and a few friendly people along the way. I must have taken a wrong turn at one point as the track simply faded out, but I took that as my cue to head back into town. I met some ladies on horseback along the way. I opened the gate to let them pass, and they repaid me with warnings of a large brown snake sighted further back along the way. I kept my eyes out but I didn’t see him.

By the time I got home, it was 1pm, and I am now feeling very refreshed and happy. I’m about to head out to lunch with Gary, then a bit of shopping for gear for our upcoming trip, and then who knows what the rest of the day will bring?

challenge accepted

I made a milestone today – I managed to run for a full 3kms without stopping at all. For me, that’s an achievement. It’s been a long time since I could manage that… I’ve been able to run further, but always with regular walking breaks and never a straight run. So now that I’ve achieved it I’ve set my next goal – 5kms. And I need to do it by November. Today, via Pinterest, I discovered the existence of the Color Run. I feel weird writing it like that because we write it as “Colour”, not “Color”. Anyhow, spelling aside, it seems like a good, fun event – something that anyone can take part in and just have a good time. I fully intend on running the Melbourne one – and all plans going well, I intend to take a few people with me!

I just hope registrations don’t open while I’m overseas and then I miss out on it.

In other news, my weightloss goals are in progress. I am down nearly 5 kgs from my initial start, which was a few months ago. My fitness has increased greatly, as evidenced by my ability to run further, work harder, and recover quicker from workouts.
I’m feeling healthy and positive, and I feel like good things are coming my way.

Tonights meal was pan seared salmon (crispy skin!), Silverbeet from the garden sauteed with some kale, onion, and mushrooms, and some 4 bean mix. Here’s a shot of Gary’s plate – mine had a little less on it. NOM NOM NOM!

Too much broccoli and too many turnips.

So I’ve spent the weekend spring cleaning and in between dealing with the end of our harvest for some veggies. Amongst that I’ve also visited the local farmers market with Scott and Lotta, and watched me little brother Dave’s team lose the Div 3 hockey grand final. It was an amazingly stressful and exciting game to watch, ending up with a controversial goal from the opposition which lead to a draw at full time. Enter Golden Goal mode – 10 minutes play, then swap ends without a break and another 10 minutes. First to score wins. As it was still a draw at the end of that time, they then play off with penalty shots (5 for each team) and basically it’s the best out of 5. If at the end of the 5 penalty shots each it is still a draw then they continue having shots until someone wins. So we all crowded around the end of the field…. waited with bated breath as each player taking the shots and the goalies lined up. The stress was almost too much. in the end, they got more flicks in then we did, and they took the flag. With all the extra time and commiserations after the game, it was too late to go home and cook a roast chook for dinner, so we went past Carvin’ it up – basically it’s a takeaway, but the takeaways are roast meals with all the trimmings, and the most amazing pork crackle I have ever tasted.

So our roast chook is going to be cooked today, for lunch and for lunches through the week.

I snapped the last of the broccoli off the plants yesterday. The stems I pickled, the tops I blanched and froze. As there were a lot of secondary shoots and broccolini, the stems were pretty small – just in case anyone is wondering about the photo.

Pickled broccoli recipe (I used a combination of ideas from a few recipes, so here’s what I ended up with) :

Broccoli Stems
garlic
1/2 water 1/2 rice vinegar (enough to cover stems and fill jar)
Honey (1 tablespoon per cup of liquid)
sprinkle of chili flakes.

I peeled and sliced the stems into chunks. I peeled and thinly sliced 2 cloves of garlic and mixed it through the broccoli chunks. There was enough to fill a 500ml (ish) cliptop jar so I then made up a pickling soloution with 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 cup hot water, and 1 tablespoon honey. I threw a splash of Mirin in there but it probably wasn’t necessary as the honey was in there. I also added a sprinkle of my superhot dried chilies.

Then I brought the pickling mixture to the boil and boiled the chunks and garlic very briefly (About a minute and a half). I then poured it into the washed and sterilised jar, and sealed it. I’m waiting for it to cool and I will probably store it in the fridge. I’ll give it a week and then open it and see how my experiment went.

Turnip greens and the tops of some Beetroots were lightly steamed, cooled, and packed in Ziplock bags, labeled, and frozen. I handed a bunch of turnips over to the neighbours and Scott and Lotta came to get some as well. It’s great growing so much so cheaply and being able to share the goodness of organic home grown vegetables.

Sunday’s projects were Pickling some turnips, roasting a chook, and making orange marmalade with the oranges that mysteriously appeared on our doorstep. I believe they came from Gary’s side of the family.

I used this recipe for the turnips (they are dyed the beautiful colour by pickling it with some beetroot, which was also from our garden)….

Pickled stems and the beautifully coloured pickled turnips.

…and this recipe for the marmalade. It hasn’t set properly, because I got impatient by the end of the day and didn’t get it to setting point before bottling it, but that’s easily fixed by tipping it into the pot and boiling it some more. It tastes pretty awesome though.

I want to put this on so many things..

So that was my weekend of cooking.

For future reference, my chicken was cooked in the BBQ – I pierced a lemon all over and placed it inside the chicken with some basil (thawed from the freezer). Outside I rubbed it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and more basil. The lemon gives it a nice flavour and the juice keeps it moist – delicious! I dished it up with a bake of layers sliced potato, turnip, and sweet potato, with onion, garlic and bacon scattered throughout. I poured a mix of 1/2 light sour cream and 1/2 chicken stock over, covered it in foil and baked in the BBQ. I finished it by melting some cheese over it.

Also I cooked a cabbage from the garden – lightly steamed then tossed with butter, salt and pepper. I would have taken a photo of the chicken as it was delicious and moist with crispy skin….. but it got eaten pretty quickly!

summer’s leftovers – salt preserved basil

Last night I cooked Spaghetti Bolognese and I used some of our own produce to do so. A massive spring onion – nice strong flavour but a little woody at the base due to age – and fresh parsley were thrown in. I have used all my jars of tomatoes and pasta sauce which I made from last summer’s crop, so I had to use supermarket tomatoes.

Since no Spaghetti Bolognese is complete withough delicious basil, and I have no fresh basil available (due to it only just being spring), I used the last of a jar of salt preserved basil. As you can see from the photo above, salt preserved basil looks a little different to the fresh basil.

But here’s the thing – dried basil tends to lose its flavour. This one, while it loses some of the flavour, still tastes like basil. I can’t vouch for the science of it, but here’s my best guess: Drying basil lets out all the essential oils – and that’s what carries the flavour. Salting basil draws only the water out of the leaf, leaving the oils. This means a few big jars of salted basil can give you tasty (although no so attractive) basil supplies for the winter months, as there is no moisture in which bacteria can grow. If anyone is concerned about how food safe this is, please conduct your own research before embarking, as I am by no means an expert on the subject. I am happy with my thoughts on the matter and consider the risk well worth the almost fresh taste of basil in winter.

I wouldn’t use it in a pesto – thats why I crushed basil at the end of summer and froze it at various stages of becoming pesto to see which stage is the best to freeze it at (turns out parmesan cheese doesn’t go so well in the freezer).

To salt basil, it’s as simple as putting a layer of salt in the base of washed and dried glass jar, then layering your clean and dry basil – with no two pieces touching – between layers of salt. Pop a lid on it and keep it in your pantry – or a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Over the next few days the salt will draw the moisture out of the leaves. As you chip out the salt later to get the leaves, put it into a shallow bowl or dish and let it dry out – it can then be reused and will not carry any basil flavour. I made up one jar using rock salt, and the rest were using normal salt. While the rock salt looks pretty awesome, it can be a bit difficult/annoying to have to chip out lumps of salt to get your basil out. I’d advise personal discretion be used with that one!

In using the basil, there is usually a bit of salt clinging to the leaves as you bring them out. There’s two choices here – if it’s a recipe that requires salt, throw in the leaves with the salt attached and reduce or omit the salt itself. If you don’t want the salt, it’s a simple matter to brush it off or wash the leaves.

dinner guests and competitions…

So on friday last week I had a phone call as I was leaving work. My sister in law invited herself and my brother over for dinner. I happily accepted, then felt that panic you feel when you hang up from arranging dinner guests and suddenly realise your house is a mess. So I rushed to the supermarket for eggs, flour, mushroom and evaporated milk, then rushed home and cleaned what felt like a million dirty dishes in about 20 minutes. Scott and Lotta arrived as I was wiping down the (now) spotless bench. I then proceeded to dump a bunch of flour on it, crack some eggs, and get to making some pasta.

It was only halfway through the process that both Lotta and I realised nobody was taking photos so I told her where to find my camera and she got some action shots. She posted one from her phone onto her blog, for those interested.

Action shot!

Scott and I soldiered on, making two trays of pasta. I didn’t have anywhere to hang it so we tried to spread it out with plenty of flour so it didn’t stick.

For the record, the extra flour made the pasta a tad slimy when it was cooked, so I just rinsed it for a bit under hot running water to get the extra off.

I made up a carbonara sauce using eggs, evaporated milk, salt and pepper, and added that to a chunky mix of (free range) chicken, spring onion, asparagus and mushrooms. I cooked the chicken, then the veggies first, then just mixed the sauce in to warm it through.

A little fresh parsley, another crack of pepper, and some fresh grated parmesan cheese and my light homemade fettucini carbonara was served.

Then we had some great conversation before hooking into strawberries and yoghurt for dessert and watching some episodes of Community.

On Saturday Gary and I woke up early to get to Melbourne for a BJJ Competition.

Gary just before the fight

I don’t fully understand the way his sport works, but it can be fascinating to watch. I also like the atmosphere and the friendly nature of the people who are involved – that might seem a bit odd considering it’s a sport and technique seeming aimed at completely controlling someone and potentially breaking limbs – but it’s great.

We picked up a couple of the other boys from training and took them down too, and it certianly made the 5:30am wakeup call and 3 hour drive to Melbourne much more fun.

Anyway, he came away with a bronze – in his first comp as a purple belt. So yeah, my boyfriend’s pretty awesome. Also, if anyone tries to break into our house they get to deal with him.

YAY!

belated photos of Mum’s birthday

A little while ago I mentioned my Mother Dearest’s birthday, and promised photos. Well here are some. A few are blurry, I don’t think that really matters. What matters is that I think everyone had a really nice time, and my sister Kate dyed her hands painting a cake to look like a quilt top for mum. Also Woodfire pizzas. They are awesome. And I made the photo board.