Yoga with Zephyr

I did my yoga outside today, in the veggie garden and under the shade of our apple tree.

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Yes, our garden needs a little tidy up.

Zeph joined me, for the most part just happy to be by my side but there were a few interruptions for belly rubs or pats. I didn’t mind.

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It was really nice actually. There was a cool breeze, and every time Zephyr brushed against the tomato, basil or fennel I could smell the delicious herbs.

Not only that but I heard, and then spotted, the native blue banded bees that visit our garden each year to pollinate the tomatoes. They were the first ones I saw this year and I really like them.

Zephyr was pretty happy.

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Occasionally when she thought I was about to turn around to her she’d throw herself on the ground for a belly rub. She does this regularly. Just lies there watching you and wagging her tail hoping for belly rubs (and how can we resist?)

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It was great. I haven’t taken my yoga outside before but this morning was too nice to stay inside.

It was really pleasant, and at the end I basically just laid there with zephyr next to me, watching the bees and the ants busy in the garden.

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Strawberry cheesecake

Apparently yesterday (nov 1) was world vegan day. I didn’t know. So please consider today’s post as a nod to yesterday.

I had a very mini family gathering tonight. I invited my brother and his wife over for dinner and then my sister Kate asked to stay for the night too. Gary was heading off to a school reunion so his dinner is still sitting in the microwave waiting for him as I write this post.

I made my lentil walnut loaf with mash potato (mashed with tofutti sour cream and chives), chard/mushroom sauté and vegan gravy.

Unfortunately neither Lotta or I remembered to take a photo of the main dish. But we did get a photo of dessert!

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Strawberry cheesecake! I used this recipe, with the slight change of using limes instead of lemons as I had no lemons left. I doubled the recipe as I only had a large tin to make it in.

What did I learn? The cashews probably need to be soaked a bit longer than just half an hour. It was still pretty grainy. Also the base needs to be thinner than what is in my photo – straight out of the freezer it was hard to get through. But it was pretty delicious!

On another note, I saw an echidna today!

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He was heading across the road so I slowed to let him pass then pulled over. These guys can be pretty quick to hide when they want to so by the time I grabbed my phone and got out of the car he had climbed into the grass and squished himself down. One of their defenses is to basically burrow down into the ground so that all that shows is their spines.

This one was pretty big – the biggest one I’ve seen. Hope he had a nice rest of the day!

We’ve also been keeping an eye on our Silvanberries. They are starting to get some red in them. Apparently they will be ripe about December – not too far off though by the looks of these guys.

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We’ve also got apples on the way!

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So spending the day cooking with Kate, catching up with Scott and Lotta, having a lovely meal and watching some Community – it’s been a good day!

More than one reason to love spring.

Lovely weather for a bike ride over the old stock bridge to Albury

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Note: when you plan to ride to the wholesale place for soybeans, think about how much it’s going to weigh when you go past the farmers market as well and buy a bunch of stuff you didn’t initially factor in. 6kgs on your back does make a difference on the way home, especially when there’s a headwind.

Spring is also great weather for a new dress!

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This is my new running dress. Of course, I’m not running right now. But with a pair of shorts under it, this dress doubles as a cycling dress. Fun!

Spring also means flowers…

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…and hiding in flowers.

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And because of all this new growth, we had heaps of new grape leaves. Which means….

DOLMADES!

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I really should have taken photos along the way but I didn’t because I was way too involved in what I was doing.

I will hopefully write up my recipe but it’s pretty basic. Rice flavored with lemon juice, dill and mint, with some toasted pine nuts. Wrap it up in some blanched grape leaves, then set in a pot and steam in a mix of stock, lemon juice and olive oil.

I also made something like a vegan tzatziki to go with it.

1/3 tub of silken tofu, blended with a little lemon juice and a little almond milk, some chopped dill and some finely chopped cucumber.

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I dished everything up with some dill potatoes and some lightly sautéed cabbage fresh from the garden (flavored with only a touch of salt and pepper).

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It’s been a good day.

My weekend.

I’ve got a few things to post about today.

First off, I’m sitting here eating a plate of baked beans on toast with avocado for my lunch. Pretty tasty yes? Especially since the bread was baked in my bread maker overnight, and the beans were in the slow cooker (also overnight). I have never been a fan of baked beans from a can. I tried to like them, but I just couldn’t stomach them, unless they were mixed through a larger dish, much like the infamous “Nicole experiments with adding baked beans to spaghetti bolognaise” incident. My family was a little wary of asking me to cook Spag Bol after that.

But I was determined to try home made beans. It’s a little bit of a process, since they have to be soaked and cooked before being baked. But I quick soaked them yesterday, boiled them till tender last night and then did them in the slow cooker on low overnight. All I had to do then was add some cornflour as the sauce was quite watery – something I’ll do at an earlier stage next time.

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They are baked beans I can stomach, which is an improvement. Definitely need to eat them hot though. According to Gary they are the best baked beans he ever tasted.

I used a recipe from “Bean by Bean” by someone with the best name ever – Crescent Dragonwagon. The only additions was a tiny splash of liquid smoke I found in the local Global Groceries and some vegan Worcestershire sauce. Basically it’s throw some sliced onions, cooked beans, molasses (I used treacle as I don’t have molasses), brown sugar, mustard, ginger, salt and pepper – and my additions – into the slow cooker and let it go on low for about 8or so hours.

I also made some hazelnut shortbread, using coconut oil instead of butter. They turned out pretty good but I’m going to try another variation today so I won’t post the recipe yet.

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The other thing I did was have the day off Friday, so I did a little shopping, went to some appointments, had a haircut and then I went for a run.

I went out to Mcfarlanes hill and ran the ridge track. When I say run, I mean I walked the particularly steep and/or rocky sections and ran the rest. I took about 5 mins off my last time for the track.

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This was one of the sections I walked. Still not 100% confident in my agility!

It’s lovely up there. The track runs beside a paddock and the grass is incredibly green right now.

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The track is pretty narrow, but it’s reasonably well maintained. Just a bit overgrown at the moment with it being spring and everything. Basically the track is a big loop, running up the hill, along the boundary, then down and back a bit lower on the hill.

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Another thing we have been doing is gardening this weekend. We spent all last Sunday outside too as the weather has really come through for us each Sunday.

Our Silvanberries are flowering right now. Can’t wait to see how the fruit is once it’s ready. We haven’t had any fruit yet as this is it’s first season.

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We’ve repotted my lemongrass from last year – Gary pulled it up because we thought it wasn’t growing back after the winter die off, but we found green stems in there so it’s now in a pot out the front. My rosemary has also been shifted closer to the veggie garden and we’ve brought some more natives to put in.

In fact, I should probably head back out and see if he needs a hand. It’s way too lovely to stay inside today.

Pumpkins!

We have a very large pumpkin plant out the back.

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This is Gary, amongst the patch a few weeks ago.

This whole patch is one single Queensland Blue plant. It’s huge. I don’t even know how it has managed to take over so much of our yard. The only training we’ve done is me trying to direct it away from the rhubarb and out of the other garden patches.

Yesterday we (mostly Gary, but I also helped) went out to find all the baby pumpkins and put stakes in so we can find them again to keep track of how they are going. We have a large population of bees and bugs visiting our garden on a regular basis, so pollination hasn’t been an issue. We found plenty of little beauties.

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One of the baby pumpkins. There’s no sign of ill health in this plant so fingers crossed they will all survive to maturity.

All up Gary said he found 20 pumpkins, with another five close to the flower falling off stage. So if they all grow we will have at least 25 pumpkins, plus whatever else ends up growing.

Off one single plant.

That is crazy!

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Last season we had a few plants, but none this big. We got some unexpected downpours with a whole lot of rain in a short period of time and most of then split and we lost them. We only got 2 usable big pumpkins and a couple of smaller varieties, but not much.

I’m hoping everything will work out well and we can have pumpkin right up until next season.

I also found this little guy in the second hand shop the other day.

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I thought it was a pretty awesome little container. Today I washed it out and filled it with some home roasted pumpkin seeds.

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I love these. None of that pepitas rubbish, this is the whole seed, crunchy and spicy and delicious. I made these from seeds I scooped out if a farmers market pumpkin, which I used for a pumpkin, pea and sage baked risotto.

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Other awesome uses for pumpkin:
Roasted pumpkin
Pumpkin soup
Pumpkin bread
Pumpkin scones (I need to find/make a vegan recipe)
Pumpkin curry
Pumpkin dip
Pumpkin pizza
Pumpkin salad

Pumpkin is so awesome!!

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.