Thursday, April 30, 2009

Humming Bird Cake

Its easy, delicious, moist, keeps well and looks impressive on a serving plate - what more could you want from a cake?!

I've tried a number of recipes for Humming Bird Cake and this is by far the favourite. Even those members of the family who don't normally like fruity cakes like this. Preferably make the cake the day before you require it as the flavours develop over time. The icing is yummy but not essential.

Humming Bird Cake

440g can crushed pineapple in natural juice, drained, reserve juice
100ml reserved pineapple juice
2 ripe bananas
3 eggs
100mls vegetable oil
1 cup castor sugar
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1 1/3 cups SR flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mash bananas well add pineapple, oil, eggs and juice. Mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Place in bundt tin (the one with the hole in the middle, like a large doughnut). Bake 180C (350F) for about an hour or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Once cooked remove from the oven but leave in the tin 10 minutes to cool. Turn out and ice when completely cool.

Cream Cheese Icing
125g cream cheese softened
lemon juice
1/2 cup icing sugar

Combine ingredients, mixing well. Add lemon juice and icing sugar to taste and until a creamy consistency is obtained. Spread on cake.

My icing job is pretty messy but its still tasted great!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shaker Style Rug Update

I've finally completed the 9 garter stitch squares for my rug! Its taken a while but they are done! My rug, when completed will be 9 x 9 squares in size. Each square is 15cm. I've chosen 9 colours of yarn. My aim is to do at least 5 plain colour squares in each colour and some multicoloured squares. I can't help myself, I plan, random is not my thing.

Anyway, these are the colours of my rug. I've also got a bit of a heart theme happening.

There is still a long way to go but I'm slowly getting there.

Happy knitting,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

I'm afraid the garden has been neglected as I've been spending large amounts of time working this week. Its also very wet and cold. The rain has been very welcome. We even have snow forecast later in the week.

Planning for The Future

Menu Planning:
Monday - Chicken and corn soup with fresh bread
Tuesday - Fish, chips and salad
Wednesday - Chilli con carne
Thursday - Chicken lasagne
Friday - probably going out
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - homemade pizza

Meals are a bit of a challenge this week as I'm out for 4 evenings during the week and most of the day Saturday.

Working for the Future
Finding outlets where I can buy food in bulk. I've discovered two fruit shops who offer substantial discounts if you are prepared to buy in bulk. Onions are selling for around $2.50/kg but if you buy a 10kg bag its only $8.00 ($0.80/kg!). Even if I throw a few out because they have gone soft I'm still doing well. Its a similar story with apples and carrots.

New Skill
Quilting - I'm not very good at it but the end result was acceptable if not brilliant.

Working for the Community
  • Attended and participated in the local community Anzac Day parade
  • Volunteered for an organization working with youth

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shaker Style Rug update

I've still been knitting squares for my rug. Its slow but steady progress. The above three squares are my latest patterns. My favourite of these is the cream square. None of these patterns were at all hard. I have noticed that some of my casting off is too tight, the squares are a bit misshapen. I'm thinking of unpicking the worst of these and casting off a bit looser.

Happy knitting,

Caterpillar Stitch (Brown square)
(multiple of 10 stitches)
R1: *k4, p6, repeat from * to end
R2: p
R3: k
R4: p
R5: p5,*k4,p6, repeat from * to end
R6: p
R7: k
R8: p

Repeat r1-8

Quaker Ridge (greenish square)
(any number of stitches)
R1: k
R2: p
R3: k
R4: p
R5: k
R6: k
R7: k
R8: p
R9: k
R10: p
R11: k
R12: k
R13: p
R14: k
repeat R1-14

Tile Stitch (cream square)
(multiple of 5 stitches)
R1: k
R2: * p4,k1, repeat from * to end
R3: k
R4: * p4,k1, repeat from * to end
R5: k
R6: * p4,k1, repeat from * to end
R7: k
R8: k
repeat R1-8

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Surprise in the Post

Look what came in the post for me!

My parcel from my swap buddy in Colorado arrived today. Opening the package to uncover the treasures inside was very exciting. Two lovely linen tea towels and two pot holders, handmade and unique. Thank you Suzan!

My tea towels and pot holders for Suzan are not quite completed. I started the swap early and was going really well when I hit a slump in the middle. They are now almost complete and will be posted by the end of this week.

The photo doesn't do it justice, a beautiful deep red rose with a heavenly scent. The rose bush was given to me early in the year. I repotted it and kept it alive through the dreadful heatwave we had this summer. It has rewarded me with lovely flowers to brighten up an autumn day.


Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

My seedlings are going well - now to find the time to plant them in the garden!

Tomatoes - I think this week will see the last of the tomatoes. There are still plenty of green fruit on the bushes, maybe green tomato pickles are the way to go.
Strawberries - just the odd one
Beans - Blue Lake - the last of the beans were picked this week. There are some nice fat pods on the vines ripening for next year's seeds.

Planning for The Future
  • Started a budget
  • Started research on solar power for the house. I'm not sure we'll be able to afford it but you never know.

Working for the Future
  • Cleaned out the pantry - why do I have 5 boxes of custard powder?
  • Bought apples in bulk and stewed and froze for later use. Made some very yummy apple pies.
  • Bought two new chooks to supply us with winter eggs

School holidays are over so maybe I'll be more organized for this week. I can but hope!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wow its Windy Out There

The forecast was for strong winds but wow its windy out there. I woke this morning to the sound of wind rumbling through the trees. The sky was black and its since started to rain. Its stay at home weather except of course that I have to go out. My daughter has an appointment this morning. I think we had better leave early to allow for branches and debris on the roads.

Today is a work day. I need to spend a few hours at my desk. I've also got some jobs around the home I would like to get done. My son is back to uni in a couple of days so I was hoping to bake him some goodies to take with him.

Yesterday I cleaned out the pantry, it was long overdue. There were a couple of shelves which were overcrowded and had things thrown in. After sorting through the mess I was amazed to find - 7 packets of spaghetti, 5 packets of custard powder and three tins of baking powder amongst other stuff. The spaghetti will get used but 5 packets of custard powder! What was I thinking! Rolled oats was another one, there were at least 5 big packets of rolled oats lurking in there. The problem was that I couldn't find anything in the mess so I would keep buying the same stuff. Hopefully I've learnt from this. Our budget has tightened up considerably so we really can't afford to waste food.

I'm trying to shop to a list and not impulse buy. I'm also cutting back on the one off things you buy to try it out and then find stuck in the back of the cupboard months later. We had bottles and bottles of different sauces. How many do you really need? I'll stick to the basics and cut down on the wastage.

Herbs and spices can also easily get out of control. My husband finally put up my new spice rack so now I can see exactly what is there. I use herbs and spices quite regularly. There wasn't much there that doesn't get used. There were a few odd ones that had been bought for a specific recipe and probably won't be used again. There were quite a few herbs I had bought that I've got growing in the garden. Fresh herbs are far superior to the commercial dried stuff. Instead of buying herbs I'm going to dry some of my own. It makes sense so why haven't I been doing it?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

Potted up some cabbage and broccoli seedlings.

Beans - Blue Lake

Planning for The Future

Menu planning hasn't been happening over the school holidays. Things have been a little disorganized.

Working for the Future
I've been making bread again. I used to make it years ago but somehow got out of the habit. After a bit of experimenting I've found a recipe I like and today's loaf was very yum. I'm not sure if its cheaper but it does mean less trips to the shops and all the extra spending that goes with it.

New Skill
Pizza dough - remarkably easy (a little time consuming) but very yum.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two New Girls

We finally decided it was time. It was time we bought some more chooks. The number of our girls had declined a bit, we were down to four. The youngest of the group would be at least 4 years old and the eldest about 8. We don't cull our older girls. They are allowed to live out their lives. They still produce great fertilizer for the garden and produce quite an amazing amount of eggs. They do go off the lay longer over winter however. Egg production was down and I can't make myself buy supermarket eggs. The solution seemed to be simple - buy some more chooks.

My daughter and I went out this morning to a local chook breeder and picked out our two new girls. I was hoping to get purebred Australorps but the breeder didn't have any in stock. So we settled on two Australorp crossbreeds. They are both black and have been named Buffy and Angel by the teenage daughter. They should start producing lovely fresh eggs in a couple of weeks.

It seems there has been a bit of a rush on backyard chooks. The breeder was saying they have been inundated with phone calls from first time chicken owners. Apparently we are returning to vegetable gardens, chooks in the backyard and sewing machines in these difficult economic times.

I'm not sure if our chooks are a good financial decision - chook food can be expensive, however fresh eggs are priceless. There is no comparison with supermarket eggs. Our eggs have lovely golden yolks and thick, clear whites. They taste great. I know the chooks have room to move about, fresh water, fresh greens, dust to bathe in and perches to sleep on. They get to do normal chook stuff.

The fertilizer they produce is a bonus. I shovel it out of the chook house a couple of times a year and get about 4 wheel barrow loads of well rotted manure. We use the deep litter system for the chook floor. The floor is essentially dirt to which we add green food such as weeds and prunings. The chooks scratch through it and add their own concentrated fertilizer. It all breaks down to produce food for the garden.

I'll post some photos of Buffy and Angel a bit later. They are settling into their new home and I don't want to distrub them just yet.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Chocolate Cookies

Its raining - much needed, long awaited rain. The gutters are overflowing (probably should clean them out again). The water tanks will be getting a much needed top up.

There will be no gardening today as it is much too wet. I spent an hour or so outside yesterday and cleared a weedy patch for some potatoes. The chooks had a nice big bucket of weeds to peck through. That's great entertainment if you are a chook.

My daughter made chocolate chip biscuits last night. They are her specialty and are delicious, especially with a hot cup of tea on a rainy day.

Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoon cocoa
1/2 cup SR flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 chocolate bits
1/3 cup white chocolate bits or chopped white chocolate

Mix sugar, egg and oil, added sifted flours and cocoa. Add chocolate, mix gently. You should have a soft dough. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls. Bake 180C (350F) for 12 minutes. Leave on tray 5 minutes to cool. Remove from tray when no longer soft and cool on wire rack.


Note: These freeze really well so make a double batch and freeze one for later.

Now I'm off to do some sewing, or maybe the dishes, or write a shopping list, or there is a big pile of clean laundry to fold and put away, I'm sure I'll find something to do.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Bag for a Young Lady

My niece turned 7 - so what to give her? Her own little bag adorned with lots of Hanna Montanna badges because she just loves Hanna Montanna. The bag is a scaled down version of this bag. I've made it from denim with a cute insect print to line it. Inside her bag there will be a necklace and bracelet made for her by my daughter. I hope she likes it.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Local Butcher

I'm very lucky as there are two butchers within 10 minutes drive of where I live. I buy our meat from these butchers. We are reducing the amount of meat we eat so I buy the best quality I can but in reduced amounts. The flavour is better and I really don't want to buy meat from animals that have been intensively farmed. Today I found out an interesting difference between the two local butchers. Both purchase grass fed, local beef but one buys whole sides of beef and butchers them on the premises, the other buys the beef already cut. The one who butchers their own beef is happy to give customers dog/soup bones for free, the other actually buys in bones and so charges for dog/soup bones.

Pork is another story. The pork comes from a piggery in another state. Two reasons I very rarely buy pork - intensively farmed and not local. There is a local free range, organic pig farm which makes the yummiest bacon but I can no longer purchase it locally. The place I used to buy it from no longer stocks it as it was getting too expensive in their opinion. It did cost more but you needed less as the flavour was wonderful.

Apparently, like so many trades, fully qualified butchers are becoming a rarity. The 'butchers' employed by supermarkets do little more than slice meat and package it.

I'll continue to shop locally but give preference to the butcher who purchases whole sides of beef. My dogs like their free dog bones.