Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Suzi Style Recipes - Rocky Road and Honeycomb

Ok Christmas treats were all dished out with great feedback! Well, for the Rocky Road anyway!

So here are the recipes:

Suzi Style Rocky Road - you know me, can't do anything without stuffing something healthy in there! All measurements are "-ish" add more or less, whatever you like.

2 x 375g packets of Nestle cooking chocolate Melts (I did one batch white and one batch milk)
1 cup whole dried cranberries (I got mine from Thomas Dux as they looked nice and plump)
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup whole raw cashews
1/2 cup cacao nibs ("raw cocoa is full of antioxidants that rival super foods like blueberries, and many antioxidant rich teas the cacao nib is also rich in good fat and minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron and potassium.")
Marshmallows - this was a bit of a blur.. it may have been 500g packet per batch... so just chuck a load in and see what you think..

I simply melted the chocolate in the microwave for a min. combined all other ingredients in well and then plopped it into a lamington tray (40x30cm -ish) that was lined with baking paper and buttered.

Cover with plastic wrap ( I have to use foil so the kids don't see it) and hey presto! Cut into half then in strips.

Now you know when something turns out so well it's braggable!?! Well my first batch was.. then we had a couple of really humid days and it went chewy on the outside.. but still Yummo!

Here's my secret - GELATINE and the microwave:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup syrup (I used golden syrup but can be corn syrup, maple etc)
1 tablespoon white vinegar.

Stick those three in a pyrex dish and stick in the microwave for 6 1/2 mins on high, then wait until it's slowed down bubbling a bit before you take it out.

Then add a 1/4 tsp of gelatine that was "blooming" in a tsp of water - stir stir stir!!! (will start doing the bubble up thing here.)

Then quickly add 1 pre-sifted Tablespoon of baking soda - madly stir! stir! stir! (volcanic action here)
Then when it looks all mixed and is huge and foaming, tip it into a lined and super buttered baking tin (butter all the way to the top of the paper). NOT a tray but a cake tin. I used the smallest one I have about 20cms across. This way it's a high chunk and the gelatine makes better air holes throughout.

It'll take an hour or two to dry out, then cut/smash/splinter up, pack and store in air tight container. If you leave it to the air it will go sticky and chewy then eventually dissolve.

UPDATE: the Sauerkraut is great! I'm really surprised I managed to pull it off. It has a few more days to go but we've had really warm weather so I'm tempted to jar it up now and refrigerate... we'll see.

Other treats I made this year are:
Mulberry jam (to clear the freezer to make way for ham mainly!)
Fermented mustard (coriander, garlic and honey mustard)... it's... an acquired taste :o)
Honey almonds with a cayenne kick

My fav gifts received this year:
* A basket of home grown carrots, parsnips, onions (with decorations and chocs) from my kindred spirit American friend Heather
* A gift bag full of mini jam jars with home made jams - ok one or two jams is impressive but four!?! Plus they're all interesting; passionfruit and peach, kiwi and orange marmalade, wine jelly and choc hazelnut spread. Plus chocs, from my very soft hearted friend Kay (she made them for all the oldies she looks after, and seriously doesn't have the time!).
* A dwarf Meyer lemon tree from my husband (and tea pot with mesh strainer inside for my new herbal tea fetish - rooibos chai is my fav at the moment)

And for next year?.. I'll remember to get more sleep, wrap early and buy food for boxing day! - what a mistake to make ;o\  Maybe some mini gingerbread houses to give away.. or I might go back to the easy peasy chocolate candycane fudge... Oh gimme a break! I'll start thinking about that in June :o) haha!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas lights..

Last night we went to the Temple lights about 20mins away. The lights were already on and the boys loved running down the bush lined paths to be in the middle of it all.
 On the life size Nativity the boys seemed to like Herod and the soldier the best. I think the armour had a bit to do with that! They're doing their mean king faces.
 They liked the Shepherds too ..

  And "ooh"-ed and "aaah"-ed over baby Jesus and ran past the wise men.. they do take ages to get anywhere!

DS2 enjoyed the art exhibition and I'm sure would have learned alot if it wasn't for DS1 saying "come oooon!" the whole time. We gave the missionaries there a bag of 'white Christmas' we'd made (the white chocolate version not that skanky copha and milk powder blerugh!) and off to see the lights again.
My pics of the lights weren't great so you'll just have to go and see them yourself if you're in and around Sydney.

On the way home we visited  a street famous for it's Christmas lights - OH MY! They were crazy spectacular for house lights!

off to bed. Christmas is tiring.. and very very enjoyable. It was nice to see the big Nativity, our teddy Nativity at home is a bit slack in the acting department and they keep falling about the place with giggles. Messy toys they are!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fermented foods..

I'm making Sauerkraut 
Here's a quick rundown of what I did. There's so many ways, so this is Suzi style.

1. I got 1.5 ORGANIC cabbages, 3 organic carrots and a red onion (any pesticide/fungicide will prevent fermentation)

2. Chopped it up finely, salted it (use Maldon, Himalaya or any salt that hasn't been processed or iodised) and then I left it covered overnight to wilt.

3. Then I stuck it in my food grade plastic tub and smooshed and bashed  the heck out of it with my masher and rolling pin end until the natural water content was released.
4. This is when you add flavour if you like (see Polish lady links below), but I didn't have anything interesting on hand.

5.After layering with herbs/mixing in dry spice, it needs to be weighed down. I placed a plate over the top to keep the cabbage from rising. I used zip lock bags filled with water to weigh it down. It's nice as you can see what it's doing through the bag.

6.  Cover with cling/plastic wrap, gently place lid ontop and leave in your kitchen for 3 days. Then move it to a cooler place (but not the garage, you don't want to the process to slow too much) for about 3 weeks checking daily.
                  (mine's orange because of the carrots. I'll try purple cabbage and beetroot next time)

There is so much anecdotal evidence about fermented food that I'm not sure what to think. I like and agree with some of the information.. but find a niggle in my mind about the lack of evidence either way.

I just pick at what I feel like doing and if it makes me feel good, then that's great! You'll hear about it :o)

                                                                                                                                             ( pic milk and water Kefir "grains")
Dom, (click here for his site)and has started a big come back (from the traditional cultural use) of Kefir, shows the breakdown of micro-organisms found in milk Kefir. I'm sure you'll gasp when you see some of the bad names in there. They seem to have a use though at keeping the others in check and are generally regarded as safe. Interesting reading...

Milk Kefir tastes like a cross between cream cheese and plain yoghurt.. hard to drink a glass of that a day. Water Kefir you can flavour with fruit like the original fizzy drinks. Ginger would be great!!

BUT Kefir is a bit high maintenance for me. A bit like sourdough. I love sourdough bread and I can FEEL that it's low GI. It's an alkaline food which helps prevent inflammatory conditions but you have to feed it all the time. Thank heaven for freezers! (baby jabba is sleeping there right now - he may be dead... )
So anyway I watched this Polish lady who makes the traditional recipe for Saxon Sauerkraut. She's great to watch and I love it when she sticks her feet in!

Then went to this site for the recipe I used as I was sure it would be fail safe. She talks a lot but it's all interesting. I'd like to see lab results though.. as the proof seeker I am, how does she know it takes 3-4 weeks to get "Tri-i-llions of lacto-bacillus" ??

So! What's your fermented favourite?

 There's a huge amount of them out there, naturally fermented soy sauce for one, homemade kimchi (at any good Korean eatery, sauerkraut (NOT the one in the jar with vinegar), Kombucha, Sourdough bread (stone ground please)... and the list goes on...EDITED TO ADD: Chocolate!! Hello!! Cacao pods are opened, fermented and then the cocoa butter (cream colour and a good fat) is separated from the brown solids that we use as powder.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas prep

This year I've been following the  Household Management 101 programm for a stress free Christmas.. when I say following I mean reading and picking out the odd thing to do.

I read back on the tasks today and I'm happy to say I've done alot of them already! Well, the silly things like "put up the decorations".. no brainer. I'm always pretty organised for Christmas. I'm a forward planner so start my ideas off in June!  We moved house this year though, so it's slowed me down a little.

Happy to say the overseas presents have been posted, cards being written today and an extra special gift of home made decorations made by me and the boys going out too. We did them ages ago and just varnished and re-glittered them yesterday. Here's hoping they make the trip in tact.

A couple of years ago I made Mamma Karries which were an absolute HIT! Flip, they take an age to make though. Lots of fun if I have a whole day to myself.

 I made them with hazelnuts which was perfect but larger nuts would be easier and faster.

Which leads me to this year's list of Christmas treats... a bit of a quandary since I don't have an extra freezer to make and pack them into, like gingerbread dough, peppermint candycane fudge, choco biccy balls ( you know the ones with swt cond milk and coconut right?)... so I'm having to re-think.

I'll still do the spiced honey almonds... mmm.. maybe some home made herbal tea? We'll see.. Maybe our new honey man will deliver the honey comb in time! ... Probably not with all this rain. Grow some chest hair and get a mack on MAN! No seriously, the flowers keep getting knocked off in the rain. No flowers, no honey.


Whoopie Pies are FINALLY hitting the stores.
Possibly even replacing cupcakes - or an equal competitor at least. Hooray for stupid cupcakes moving over! Why do I think they're stupid? Probably because I don't have the time or inclination to stand there for an age doing individual decoration, piping and cutesie-fying just to impress. That's fine and wonderful if you want to and yes I do think they're nice to look at but think it's a little pointless all the same.
Don't you think Woopie's just make sense!?  Icing in the middle. No icing overdose in the first bite or disappointing dryness at the end.
Thank - you Amish folk for sharing another corker with us :o)

I haven't even started on my current rant about fermented foods.... do they have to be so yuck?! Sauerkraut's on the go. Kefir's in the too hard for now basket.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There's a first time for everything..

This month we've had alot of firsts.. not all of them good!
DH chased a beautiful young goanna that was half way up the private road we live on. He's always been very careful with them and only ever gotten a scratch. This time he got bitten, hard. Actually it was more like a chew! Not one to hold a grudge, he showed him off before letting him go (click to enlarge, you can see the BLOOD from DH's hand dripping down the goanna's leg (lace monitor)

We made Halloween lanterns ( a week early). The bright orange imported pumpkins were $4 a kilo!! So we got a rock melon and later a watermelon. DS1 had a great time and I sat on the floor with the melon heads each night with the candle on in their room as they dropped to sleep.

No room in the fridge so they didn't last long.
Another first was home made foccacia pizza.. I really should have halved the dough, it was ALOT of dough. But super fluffy (even for my stone ground, light sift, whole grain flour) and really yummy! A definite hit.

Here's DS2 with his and my first try at making pasta through my (flippin' fantastic) juicer. Again, it was that stoneground flour.. so it wasn't great in this recipe but just for play was great. DS2 loved it and I wished that I'd started the kids on wholegrain pasta from birth (they love quinoa/barley flake/seedy bread and raw veggies.. forgot about brown pasta!)

The other firsts this month were... DS2 falling off the retaining wall in our new place. Fell onto concrete and miraculously was fine within 20mins! Dad has had more blood transfusions (which unfortunately isn't a first) and is on his second course of chemo.. worrying so I can't even write about it. I'm a Daddy's girl. x

Our unparked car rolled down the drive (took an hour then we heard it!) and crashed into the bush taking out boulders and trees in it's path. We had four paramedics on scene (my husband and his co-worker to come and check it out plus his boss and station manager to open the bush trail gate for us with their special rescue key).
Must have been a sight for the neighbours!! Freaked out one guy coming to walk his two dogs on the track. He went pale and stuttered, "wa? ww. w. w. wah?"  hhahaaha  No-one was in the car, it was just a crush mess.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The skeptic was wrong... phew!

Well this is too good to miss.
Might I say, that I FLAT REFUSED to go to the two Norwex parties/demos that a friend invited me to.
AFTER I'd researched it to the hilt and realised that this could be bigger than Tupperware (with the SAME Antibac Microfiber being used in hospitals in MY country. I found lab tests, clinical and hospital trials - Proof! Proof! Proof! After getting up off the floor.. and picking up my jaw,  I decided, arms crossed, scowl and skepticism on the inside, to go and see a Norwex demo.

It was THE WORST party plan/direct selling moment I'd ever been in. The lady stood at the front and droned on and on and ooooon. I think once she said, "if you want to try one...".
I sneaked in the other room with the hostess and one of the cloths (Antibac Enviro) and with my TUT and eye-roll found a vegemite smudge on the carpet... "HANG ON! did that actually come out?? Oh... it did".

Before I'd even touched one myself I was signing up (still with skepticism) as the urge to join at such an early stage (first two years) of Norwex being in the country was too good a chance to miss.
Back then it was $149 to join, now it's $59.95 - darn it! :o)

I am STILL FLABBERGASTED at how good this stuff is. The fact alone that it SELF SANITIZES still gets me.

Did I tell you the time when I proved the self sanitizing ability myself?? It's GROSS but totally worth hearing.

My husband is a Paramedic and has come home with a stomach bug three times now. I used one Antibac Enviro, damp, wiped over the door handles, taps, sink, then the loo - button and top, lid, inside the lid, seat, everything.. then used some Norwex loo cleaner. I think I even wiped the floor around the loo just incase.
Then EVERY TIME he used the bathroom in that unfortuante way, I used the SAME CLOTH to do the same things and only rinsed it very very very well under the hot tap and hung out to air on a hook near the sink.

NO-BODY GOT SICK! And you know very well that once a bug is in the house it rips through everyone!
I'm happy to say that I haven't had a stomach bug since I've been using Norwex and that's almost 2 years ago now.

I LIKE!     click on the LIKE button on the right hand side below followers and you'll have access to my personal monthly specials. So worth it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

~Don't ask for lemon butter~

Well since our new rental property has NO available growing space (ok so there might be a smidge but it's kid chaos in the garden), I've decided to take up preserving ("canning" in the US and "bottling" in the UK) to hopefully take some of that itch away.

So far it's not really working.. I'm enjoying bottling ALOT but there is no substitute for getting my hands dirty in cool loamy soil and planting out the first seedlings of Spring. Smelling the warm fragrant air, knowing that in a few months time I'll be overrun with zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, beans, shallots, herbs, lettuce, silverbeet, beetroot, potatoes etc etc etc!!! We never got overrun with starwberries but we'd at least get about 250g per day for a month. That was nice. Plus a few experimentals..

Here in the new nest.. it's... well... in the bush (trees/wilderness). So even if I did grow anything it would be quickly devoured by possums or bandicoots. They'd either eat them or sit on them. Grrrr!

Our garden is NOT a place of tranquility as there's a 10ft retaining wall of climbable boulders at the rear going up onto the private road. I have boys. Climbers. Clever climbers. Oh help me!

Anyway, so I'm getting stuck into the food production side for a year at least.

6 ft leeks that were at the market for $1.50 each! LOVE leek soup so I chopped and froze them. Too bad I sold that tucker box freezer..

Lately I've been Strawberry Jaming. Because I have small kiddies, I like to do the recipes that have stages so I can stagger out the work and not ruin anything because of kids underfoot.

Here we have batch 1 and 2. Aka Strawberry Jam with bits and .. er... Strawberry Jam.
Batch 1 was 1.5kilos of strawberries (sliced and sat over night with sugar in fridge). Cooked with a packet of vacola jamsetta, juice of one lemon (there for the taste not the pectin) plus a knob of butter at the end to disperse any scum. YUM! Thanks Delia.

Batch 2 was 1.5kilos (smooshed and sat over night in sugar in fridge) with juice of 1 lemon and no pectin. Without that Jamsetta it took longer to reach setting stage. In comparison I thought this was too cooked. It lost that lovely fresh zing and was darker in colour.
Knob of butter at the end.

My cupboard!
 From left to right we have: Hickson mandarin marmalade (didn't set but tastes sooo gooood!), Murcot mandarin marmalade (set. nice.), Piccalilli by the book, Piccalilli without electric scales (curried piccalilli actually tastes really yum too!), Batch 1 Strawberry Jam (the best one).

Below we have the bums so you can see the deliciousness. On the far right is a small sample jar from Batch 3 Strawberry Jelly Jam;
(ran out of time, sat in fridge for two nights so s.berries got almost dehydrated with the sugar sucking the juice out of them so they didn't cook down to mush. Then I had 2kilos of fruit and added 2 packets of Jamsetta so it's rather... jelly like. It's not conventional but oh my Gosh! the flavour is so there!)

So to tally up I have(Large jars are size 20 Vacola, approx 540g):

3 large jars Apple sauce (ok it was supposed to be apple pie filling but processed it wrong and had to re-cook it. YUM!)
5 med jars Piccalilli - by the book
6 large jars Curry Piccalilli
6 large jars Strawberry jam (1 each of Batch 1+2 and 4 of Batch 3 the Jelly Jam - yuuuuUUUm)
5 small Marmalade jars (1 Murcot, 4 Hickson)
2 large jars wild plum jam
3 large jars pickled onions

Not to forget the fridge:
3 large jars of Strawberry jam, one of each batch
1 large Murcot Mand. Marmalade
1 small Murcot Mand. Marmalade
1 Piccalilli by the book

So! My strawberry jam tips:
  • Use Jamsetta as you keep that lovely fresh flavour and appearance of the fruit as you're not having to boil it for very long (maybe 16mins or less).
  • Do batches of 1.5kg at a time
  • Add juice of one lemon for flavour, it really compliments the strawberry. Then a knob of butter at the end, also for flavour
  • If you do the slicing the fruit and leaving over night in sugar method then don't leave it any longer and smoosh that fruit once it's in the pan.
Happy Jamming!

P.s. We stripped the lemons off our tree before moving.. how silly of me to think I'd have time to make lemonade and lemon butter. We gave lots away and the rest spoilt because of my optimism in having time in a new home. So don't ask for lemon butter.. there is NONE!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

August - more-ish

Ok so here's the most beautiful thing that happened in August (well, this year!). Meili and Sam got married.
This little boy was very shy and waited for quite some time watching his Meili being photographed before he had the chance to give her a temple garden picked posy.

Sorry... I know! So totally inappropriate to put these two subjects together... (sorry sorry sorry) BUT there's nothing more refreshing than the smell of brining vegetables. HONESTLY! It smells like fresh air.

 Here's the mix after having the salt washed and washed and washed out. Then cooked up in spice, sugar and vinegar mix.
 Piccalilli cooling and popping while I get the apple pie filling ready to bottle up. It ended up being apple sauce as I didn't know you had to process them straight away in the Vacola unit so I had to cook them up and re-sterilise all the jars before processing them again. Still... loving the apple sauce! I have it on good authority from my friend Sarah and her extended family that it's super delicious! (Glad it's not just one of those things you love because you were fed it all you're life!).

Here's the one good photo of me in years. It's likely to be a while before I post another pic of myself! I'm not the type to make my face the subject of my blog entries (so conceited when people do that!). Food is so much more interesting!

Don't I just make those braces look cool for a thirty something Mum to be wearing!? (er.. ha ha can I even use the word 'cool' at my age?)... Not too bad. After 2 years of invisalign and 4 months of braces I'll have straight teeth - yay!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

.. finally

Well after weeks of anticipating moving house, making mum's piccalilli (really more like a relish), strawberry jam and yet more mandarin marmalade.. we're in and settled.
The garden makes me anxious. Too many unsafe places, too exposed to the private road and NO ROOM TO GROW!
Gosh I miss growing vegies already. This is spring and I have this desperate urge to stick my hands in dirt, dig, sew, water, mulch and plan what I'll do with gluts of giant zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and potatoes. I was even going to try corn again this year. At least I kept my curry leaf tree...

Humf! How dull. Still... I've got my new vacola unit and can start using up some of these age old jars I got on freecycle. I'll just have to make a trip down to the markets before the apples hike in price as the season changes. Make some pie filling.. then maybe some strawberry and apple jam next time.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dud marmalade... YUUUM!

No, Dud isn't a new kind of citrus fruit. This was a batch of Hickson mandarin marmalade. The smell and taste of Hickson's are sooo sweet fresh and delish! I used this at the bottom of muffin tins when making cup cakes. It's going to be yum on a lemon drizzle cake.

I couldn't help but stick ALL of the peel in. It wasn't bitter. It's the seeds and pith that are in the muslin that make it bitter. They have heaps of pectin which sets the marmalade.

I cooked it for HOURS but it didn't set. I think now it was due to my low cooking point and should have upped it alot. BUT even though it didn't set it's the most delish by far!

 I made some Murcot marmalade the following week and it wasn't as nice. Too much sugar for my liking and didn't have the same taste as the lovely Hicksons.

So I got onto lemon butter instead. In my opinion, the microwave method sucks...... well, lemons. It doesn't have that sharp, delightful zesty taste. So I'm doing it by hand from now on. After we move anyway. Time to pack up.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Minding My Peas and Cucumbers

You never forget that realization of sheer joy the first time you feel it. For me it was standing in my Father in law's allotment. He was far off picking beans.. or something and DH was about two feet to my right. 

We were elbow deep in raspberry scratches. I remember the delicious tang of the baby soft raspberries in my mouth as I looked up at the biggest cloudless summer sky. I was blissfully relaxed and had DH by my side. It was only then that I realized my joyous passion in life (the first anyway.... :o)

I think of my Father in law whenever this topic of allotments pops up.

Thanks Gramps! I'm sure I really didn't want to help you that freezing English spring when you asked me to help plant out all those seed trays. 
We ate from your allotment EVERY night that summer with Kippers from the Isle of Man that you brought back. Bliss!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Home Pickled Onions

I've been itching to talk about this one! This is why I blog.. not to get a bunch of followers (though that's nice) but to blab about things where most of my friends wouldn't be able to share my enthusiasm on the topic.

I love pickled onions but my husband doesn't. But who cares?! I couldn't believe my luck when I found some at the supermarket. Since we're moving I'd much rather pack jars full of homemade goods than empty. Gives a bit of excitement. By the time we move and unpack they should be ready to eat. Though I might leave them until Christmas.

I did these the slow way, brining for 12 (or 24) hours before rinsing then stuffing in the jars with pre-spiced vinegar. All cold. I sterilised the jars and left them in the oven to cool before putting everything together.
 The bucket was clean! I've already packed away my big brining bowl.

I couldn't find any pickling spice mix so I made two of my own. The MAJOR bummer with this is that it's impossible to find chunky dried bits of allspice etc. It's all powdered. So I did what I could though it's left the cloudy vinegar to settle with spice sediment everywhere. No matter, it'll still taste good just will be a little stronger over time than I wanted.

 It wasn't until I'd done the two different spice blends that I realised I prefer white vinegar with a dash of malt... nevermind!