Friday, 26 April 2013

Weekly recipe: Potato and herb bread

My sister gave me a breadmaker for my 30th birthday and I haven't looked back. We make all our own bread now, as well as pizza dough and hot cross buns (so far). But earlier this year, that breadmaker broke, so we purchased a new one and have been busy getting to know it. Over the years, I've learned that you have to be very careful to weigh out the ingredients carefully on scales and that humidity has a big effect on bread quality - it's a fine line before you get a rubbish loaf. The extensive recipe book that came with this new breadmaker has been so reliable that I haven't wanted to get too creative. But today I made the first loaf of bread that wasn't directly from the book - a potato and herb loaf.

This is the kind of breadmaker where you add the dry ingredients first (the opposite from our old one), so I started by adding the 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast, 520 g of flour (oh gluten, where would I be without you?), 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk powder and 20 g of butter (the old machine didn't suggest using butter, but the results are much softer).

I picked 3 tablespoons of chives and thyme from the garden and cut them up and then also added 1/2 a cup of boiled potato chunks.

Next was 340 g of water (yeah, I weigh my water. Short of stealing a measuring cylinder from work, this is the most accurate way of getting the right amount.) and then GO!

Our breadmaker takes about 4 hours, which includes a resting period at the beginning, then the kneading , rising and baking.

Lunch for me! Worked out well.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Toddler Play: Colour Hunt Activity

A great way to learn colour is a hunt activity. Miss 2 and Miss 2.5 have spent a few weeks now finding items around the house according to a colour theme. The game is cheap and mess free, the only hassle being putting everything away afterwards.

I choose a colour for the day and the girls hunt around the house for items of that colour, which they put in the laundry basket. Of course, not all the orange articles, for example, will be the same shade, so there's lots of learning going on. Favourite hunt spots are the play room, Miss 2's bedroom, the kitchen and the bathroom.


We negotiate about items that have a little bit of the target colour on them, but are predominately another colour. The game could be extended out to other senses, such as things that are soft, rough, shiny, or smell nice.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Weekly recipe: Beef and mandarin

I went to the market on the weekend and bought salty duck eggs. Love them! I was excited to cook a stir fry with them and excited to post the recipe here. Unfortunately, when I was peeling them I came to the realisation that they were just regular duck eggs and the lady had given me the wrong thing. What a let down. So instead, here is a recipe for beef and mandarin.

Cut up some dried mandarin skin (about 2 teaspoons full) from the local Asian dried food shop (mine is in Box Hill) and rehydrate it in some warm water.

Marinate around 300 g beef strips with 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Chinese cooking wine, 1 teaspoon chopped ginger and 1 teaspoon sesame oil for around 15 minutes.

Cut up lots of vegetables or used tinned Asian vegetables. For this effort, I used fresh beans, carrot, red capsicum and mushroom and tinned bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. Cook the meat in a hot wok with a little peanut oil until it changes colour.

Then throw in your veggies and cook them, hard ones first for a few minutes, then the softer ones.

Add a shake of white pepper, the mandarin peel (or leave it until the end if your husband is intolerant of orange fruit, like mine!), 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and a little sugar. Make up a third of a cup of stock and dissolve a little cornflour in it, then add that to the stir fry as well to thicken the sauce.

And serve with noodles. Yummo.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A House Update

The last time that I wrote about our house renovations, we had just finished Miss 2's room, complete with fresh paint and carpet. Since then, Melbourne was in a heat wave, not unusual for February but nine days in a row above 30 degrees in March was extremely ridiculous and not at all conducive to painting. So instead we got going on the garden.

The digger from the agi installation had left the lawn in a dust-bowl-like state, so at the beginning of March we hired a rotary hoe and dug up the entire garden. We purchased 15 cubic metres of dirt and mixed that through the original dirt and then let it all sit for a couple of weeks.

The chickens were relocated into a new, larger home, which cheered them up immensely.

We shaped the garden beds and then planted tall fescue grass seed in the front and back lawns. And watched with interest to determine whether pigeons in the front yard would be more detrimental to germination than dogs in the back yard. It turns out that pigeons are worse than dogs, and ants steal grass seeds (I thought that they thought that they were eggs and were stockpiling them, but my friend Kathryn says that they are eating the seeds - boo!). We sowed another round of grass after the first one had germinated.

I decided to get some plants in before winter, so we put wire a long the side fence and planted native creepers against it, as well as putting citruses and pansies along the front of the house and starting planting natives in the front garden.

And it did cool down eventually! So I got out the paint and finished the trims in the sun room and the laundry. I just have to trim the little hallway between rooms and then we are ready to attack the dining room.

Follow the Moving House and Renovating House tags to see the history of our house renovations.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Weekly Recipe: Chocolate Ginger Balls

In her past life, my mother was a teacher of English as a second language. Somehow, as part of her classes she also taught her students how to cook simple recipes. This recipe for chocolate ginger balls is one of the recipes from these classes.

Start with a around 100 g of crystallised ginger and put it in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes, to soften the sugar coating. Then drain it and throw it in the blender.

Combine 150 g of softened cream cheese, 3 tablespoons of honey, half a cup of dessicated coconut and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger in a bowl.

 Then crush half a packet of gingernut biscuits in a blender.

Mix everything together in the bowl and shape into balls with your hands. My balls are big, maybe tablespoon sized. Darren likes to make tiny ones. Place them on baking paper and refrigerate for at least a few hours.

Next! Melt half a packet of easy melt chocolate and coat each ball in it.

Put them back on the baking paper to dry and the freeze. These balls last in the freezer for a little while, but they melt quickly, so serve them straight out of the freezer.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Finders Keepers

On the weekend, Miss 2, Darren and I went to The Finders Keepers Melbourne in the Royal Exhibition Building, which is a big biannual art and design market getting around Australia and New Zealand.

A good number of the store holders were familiar names from Madeit and Etsy. I'm on online seller and shopper, but there is something good about being able to see creations in person.

We bought two pairs of tights from the clearance sale of last season's stock at Tightology and some very beautiful wedding presents from Hayden Youlley Design and Angus & Celeste. We didn't buy a lot of other things - Miss 2's distracting influence had a lot to do with that! Darren really liked the Juke Cases - upcycled suitcases turned into portable audio systems created by Son Valise.

There was a lot of jewellery at Finders Keepers, as well as a surplus of cards and baby and adults clothing. The Oxfam Shop was also there, which I though was really very strange because although I'm a big fan of Oxfam and free trade and all that they do, they are an organisation rather than independent artists and designers promoting their creations....

There was a food and music as well. We had an actually reasonably priced lunch next to the stage where Lauren Moore was playing. Lauren had accumulated a little mosh pit of toddlers who thought that acoustic guitar was great. Miss 2 joined the worship.

A lovely morning out. The Finders Keepers will be back in Melbourne in October, as well as Sydney in May/June and December and Brisbane in July and November (dates here). Do go and check it out.

Did you go to The Finders Keepers Melbourne? What did you find there?

Saturday, 6 April 2013

April: New Photo Boards

April. Autumn is here and I think that the last 30 degree day has passed us for a little while. Although it is meant to be 28 tomorrow...

New photo board offerings for this month.

Visit my madeit or Esty shops over the coming weeks to see these new boards in detail.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Weekly Recipe: Marshmellow and Mandarin Dessert

Looking for a very easy, very quick, tasty and not at all healthy dessert? Doesn't look inspiring, but this marshmellow and mandarin dessert is the way to go! My mum used to make this for us when we were children and she got the recipe from a friend of my grandmother.

Grab a bag of marshmellows and cut them in half.

Then get some sour cream (200 ml is heaps, you could use low fat sour cream to improve the healthiness) and a tin of mandarins and pour both over the marshmellows (including the mandarin syrup).

Mix everything through and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours so that the flavours combine. Trust me. You won't look back.