Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Eco Sort of Birthday

It is a very special friend of mines' birthday this week and I wanted to make her something extra special. She had mentioned to me at the market last weekend that a mouse had eaten her trusty eco-bag when she was in Vanuatu (I know, what a drag huh). Having recently successfully made my own market bag, I thought this would be the perfect gift for her. Fabric shopping ensued and I found the most perfect piece at a closing down op shop for $10. Perfect!

However, this wasn't quite enough for me. I'd been brewing a plan for a while now, to make netting produce/dried goods bags out of an old net curtain I had finally removed from my window. Now, I have nothing against net curtains- they are great if you want to spy on neighbours, or dance around your house nude in the day time. But if I look out my window, all I see is fence, which negates the need for the net curtain to protect me from neighbours, or to protect my neighbours from me. The impending birthday was a perfect opportunity to try out my plan.

 The Husky, all set up in my new sewing nook.

The shopping bag was a breeze. I chopped an oblong of fabric to the size I wanted, sewed up the sides and hemmed the top edge. Then, I added handles and sewed across the diagonal of the bottom corners to make a square bottom. Easy as pie.

The produce bags were even easier. I used the hemmed edge of the net, cut to the size I wanted and sewn up the open edges. I used old curtain cord as the pull tie, threaded into the already hemmed top and burnt to seal the edges.

These bags are fantastic! I can't believe I have waited so long to make them! I will definitely be making some for myself in the future. By using a recycled curtain and cord, thrifted fabric for the bag, wrapping paper from my linen cupboard and a homemade card, this whole present cost me only $10, and I know the birthday girl will love it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Best Satay Ever

Most of the time I love cooking. But, there are those odd times when I get home from work/uni at 6pm, am HUNGRY, and don't want to wait any longer than about 34 seconds before I am eating dinner.
When this situation occurs, I have a few go-to recipes, that are ready within ten minutes of getting home. This is one of my favourites.

Best Satay Ever

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup boiling water
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely sliced
1cm grated ginger OR 1/2 tsp dried ginger
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp wine vinegar (or white wine)
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
1 - 2 tsp sweet chilli sauce

Place all ingredients in a jar and get your shake on. The amount of hot water depends on how thick you want your sauce.

My favourite way to serve this is with noodles and a clean-your-fridge-out vege stir fry. Tonight's stirfry contained brussel sprouts, red capsicum, pumpkin, leek, garlic shoots, corn, celery and egg noodles, served with baked honey soy tofu and a dollop of left-over avocado mash. Yum!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I've been kind of obsessing over a few websites lately. So much so that my uni work is not getting done, the dishes stay unwashed until Paddy gives up and does them (not such a bad thing...), I am overdue for a new (and proper) blog post, and most dramatically, I haven't even begun to plan my spring/summer garden yet.
However, with all their distraction power, I decided I must share the love and the websites that are currently taking over my life...

Lisa Leonard Designs
The most beautiful and personalised jewellery ever! I just mentioned to Paddy that if I was my own boyfriend I would be so awesome at buying me presents. I'm not particularly subtle, and that includes at dropping hints. Maybe I'll just email him the links of the things I like?

Gorgeous prints. I actually want them all. So much cuteness, I can't handle it.

Young House Love
An adorable couple, cute baby and an amazing house. I have the overwhelming urge to redecorate. The thing I love most about this blog/website is they do it all themselves! It is a bounty of great do-it-yourself ideas.

Any sites you are currently obsessing over? Do tell...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Under the Weather

I've been feeling like I'm coming down with something these last few days, and I'm not happy about it. I've been on holiday from university for a few weeks now and it just so happens that the week I start back for the most intense stretch of my entire degree, my body decides to get sick. Not impressed body, not impressed.

At the slightest hint of a cold or flu, Paddy and I have a few things we like to do to try and knock back the bugs before they get started. Despite a number of interesting medical ailments, I try my best to avoid going to the doctor as I find they are much too quick to prescribe antibiotics. I much prefer to make my own home remedies.

Lemon Honey Ginger Drink
I used to make my lemon homey drinks by pouring hot water over lemon juice and honey and calling it a day. But, when an old work colleague enlightened me to the glory of juicing the lemon and ginger through the juicer, and then adding honey and hot water, my immune system was never the same again.
For this drink, I juice a whole lemon, with just the skin removed (leave as much of the pith as possible) and a good 2 or 3 cm of ginger through the juicer. To this liquid gold I add a generous helping of manuka honey, hot water, and stir to combine. This tart beauty will definitely make your taste buds tingle, but really does the trick for soothing sore throats and getting lots of vitamin C into your system. It's nice cold too if you are that way inclined. I drink as many of these a day as my bladder can handle.

Healing Broth
A cheesy name, but a definite winner. This recipe is adapted from James Wong's 'Grow Your Own Drugs' herbal medicine book and TV show.

We have been using it for a few years now and it never fails to make us feel better. It would also be easy to make vegetarian, by changing the stock to vegetable, and swapping out the chicken for some lentils or legumes. 

Healing Broth

2 litres homemade chicken stock
1 chicken breast, sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
Mushrooms- as many as you like!
3cm fresh ginger, skin removed, thinly sliced
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 Tbsp goji berries, soaked in hot water
1/2 packet dried soba noodles
Extra garlic and ginger to serve

Place stock, chicken, onions, mushroom, ginger, garlic and chilli in a large pot. Simmer on low for at least an hour. Add drained goji berries and noodle and continue to cook until noodles are al dente. To serve, finely chop 1cm ginger and 2 garlic cloves per bowl, and ladle hot soup over. Garnish with parsley and enjoy! Best served with homemade sourdough, of course.

This makes a huge amount, that feeds Paddy and I for at least two days; by which time, we are feeling better!

Other ideas:
I have been using Vicks to clear chest congestion since I was a child, but with my new awareness of the potential risks of petroleum-based products, I am keen to change to a more natural alternative. ecoMILF has a wonderful recipe for homemade vapour rub using almond oil and peppermint or eucalyptus oil. This sounds like just the ticket to me, so I am keen to give it a go.

With these plans in place, as well as lots of extra water and sleep, any colds we have are generally gone within a few days.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Homemade Crumpets

As a child, the once a fortnight packet of crumpets from the grocery shop was always a huge treat. The next day would always see us kids rising from bed at least an hour or so earlier than usual, to beat the others and be sure we got our fortnightly gem. Fast forward ten years, when I worked in a cafe who made their own crumpets. Trust me, after tasting fresh crumpets, hot from the frypan, you will never go back. I tried a few times, to relive the glory days of packet crumpets, but it just hasn't been the same since. And so, enter my own homemade crumpets, and quite possibly the most perfect afternoon tea ever.

 Crumpets (recipe from this book)

1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/4 water
3 1/4 cups strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried yeast

Warm the milk and water in a saucepan until blood temperature. Place flour, salt and yeast in a bowl, combine. Slowly add the warmed milk mixture to make a smooth, thick batter. Cover with a teatowel and place in a warm place for at least an hour or so until well risen and bubbly.

Before rising

 After rising

Grease four metal rings (I used a tuna tin with both ends cut off and some preserving rings), and the surface of a heavy based, nonstick pan. Arrange the rings in the pan and carefully spoon the crumpet batter into them, until about 1cm deep (the height of the preserving ring is a good indicator). Cook on a medium heat until the top bubbles and appears dry. Gently remove ring and flip crumpet over to brown remaining side. Continue this way until all the mixture is gone. Reheat crumpets under the grill on one side only, smoother in toppings of choice, and devour!

As you can see, my first batch needed work. But they got progressively better every time!

Oh. My. Goodness. They are so incredibly delicious. I served ours with butter and some local clover, lavender and thyme blend honey. Oh, and a cup of tea, of course.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our Daily Bread

Inspired by the wonderful ecoMILF, and her gorgeous our daily bread Monday meme, I have decided to share our much loved daily bread recipe with you all.

I'm proud to say that with one exception, I haven't purchased bread in about two years. The one exception was a loaf of white sandwich, to make fairy bread with. I was horrified at how far from my homemade bread it looked and tasted, and while remaining light and airy, it went a scary shade of green within the week. That was enough to reconfirm (not that I needed it), why I religiously make my own bread, and don't plan on ever stopping. It's so satisfying to make your own bread, knowing with complete assurance what you are putting into your body. And the smell, well the smell alone is enough to convince anyone to quit the cardboard loaves of chemicals and give it a go for themselves.

The weekends are when I let my creativity take off, and can afford to spend the time making delicious, extravagant breads, with fillings and toppings and all manner of delicious things. However, I am a busy student and Paddy works full time (plus all the extra hours that teachers work), so during the week, we always use the same, go-to recipe, with a few changes every now and then.

This recipe was originally intended to be for ciabatta, which means it's moister than most doughs, and doesn't require a second rise. It still makes a delicious loaf of that if we so desire, but more often than not, the dough goes straight into my perfectly sized and shaped bread tin, and into the oven for toast and snacks and so on.

Perfect Daily Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tblsp olive oil
3 1/4 cups high grade flour (I normally use all white, or half white, half wholemeal)
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast

Add all ingredients to bread maker, and set to dough cycle. If using wholemeal flour, more water may be needed. Check on your dough in the early stages to see if it's formed a cohesive ball. If not, add a bit more water until it does. Once cycle has completed, place dough into a greased bread tin, and leave to rise (optional) while oven warms up. If you want to get fancy, you can dust it with flour and make a few slashes in the top. Cook on around 200 degrees celsious until golden and hollow to tap on the bottom and sides. If desired, mist with water during cooking for an extra crispy crust.

Notes: my oven is crazy, and possibly possessed, so I would trial and error the temperature and time until you find what suits your oven best. You can also roll the dough in seeds before you cook it for even more fanciness.

Now yes, I know this is cheating as it is made in a bread maker. But, to be honest, I just wouldn't have time to make my own bread if it had to be done by hand. I make sourdough, and some other weekend loaves by hand, but this is when I have the luxury of time. The great thing about bread makers is I can put the ingredients in in the morning before I leave, and set the timer. The dough is ready when I get home to be baked and I don't have to be up to all hours of the night.

The final product. I challenge anyone to wait more than 2 minutes before slicing in to this and devouring.

Paddy has suggested I add that this bread is the key to our social life. Bring this bread to an engagement once, and you will always be invited back. If you don't bring afore mentioned bread, people will ask you where it is and why you didn't bring it. Trust me, it's a sure thing.

Do you have a favourite go-to bread recipe you would like to share?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Love Juice

I love juice. 

 According to google images, this guy does too...  :s

What I don't love is paying $7+ for a plastic cup full of questionably fresh and/or clean fruit and vege, from a surly teenager with a hangover. Luckily, I no longer have to. Let me introduce you to my second-favourite kitchen appliance... my juicer!

I acquired (read: borrowed and never returned) my Breville juicer from my mum when I moved out of home. It has periods of intense use, followed by downtime, but it is worth ever dollar I didn't spend on it. Juicing is quick and easy, a great way to get a good dose of fruit and veges into you (remember, juice only counts as one of your five plus a day serves though), and juicers make the best, most potent lemon, ginger, honey drinks you will ever try. It's also a great way to use up any produce you have fading in your fridge before your next trip to the farmers market.

I don't have a favourite recipe really. I juice most things, and am generally happy with the result. Basic juicing guidelines recommend not to mix veges with fruit other than apples, but other than that I don't follow any rules (yeah, I'm a juicing bad ass). Today's juice consisted of green apples, kale and lemon. It's tart enough to make your sour muscle tweak a wee bit (you know, that one under your chin), but still pleasantly refreshing. It would be better with fresh ginger and a beetroot, but I'm not going to complain.

Step one

Step two

Step three

I often hear people complain about the post-juicing clean-up. To be honest, I don't really find it a problem. A quick rinse in hot water gets off the pulpy bits, and until I start whipping chicken breasts through my juicer, that will be the extent of the clean-up routine. Another juicing bonus is the wormies in my worm farm just love the excess pulp. If you use citrus, just pour a bit of hot water over the pulp and let it cool before you feed it to the hungry wee fellas.

Worm food

Juicers not liberated from your mum's pantry are a bit expensive, but there is always Trademe, or if you have something like Flybuys, you could probably find a good deal through them. An unofficial survey tells me that a lot of people have an unused and unloved juicer hiding in the depths of their kitchen anyway, so offer to take it off their hands. If you are a regular juice buyer, it doesn't take long to make back any investment from those $7 cups. And your day will be brighter from not having to deal with the surly teenager too.

Now if only I had one of these to drink my juice through...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jackets for Cushions

For a long time I have survived with only two couch cushions in my life. I'm not sure why, but that's just the way it has been. For years now, Paddy and I have laid uncomfortably on the couches, our necks at awkward angles, unsupported by the tireless work of one lonely cushion (each). But, with the emergence of our new, improved couch, it was time for a revolution. A new couch needs new cushions. And so, I came, I sewed, and I conquered.
Potentially, we had survived on two cushions for so long because I was too cheap (read: poor) to actually buy any more. After coming across a bargain bin at Spotlight when shopping for material for the couch cover, something came over me, and I splashed out... FOUR new cushions, for the teeny sum of $4 each. However, my cheapness (read: emaciated bank balance) was not willing to splash out for covers for afore mentioned cushions; and I hate HATE paying for things I can do myself. Maybe they won't be as symmetrical or neatly sewed as the ones I could potentially purchase, but at least they will be free! Also, with the high likelihood that Fang will be chewing holes in these cushions in the near future, I wasn't prepared to invest too much.

 Fang's cute little nose, systematically chewing her way out of her house. That hole did not exist a month ago...

 Fang's recent handiwork on my other cushion.

My mum had given me some yellow corduroy a while ago, to 'practice' sewing on, and Paddy's keen eye found a perfectly coordinating burgundy going cheap at Spotlight. These would be perfect.

Now, I am not necessarily a beginner sewer, but I have had 8 or so years off, so my skills are not what one would call 'honed'. I fashioned a pattern (in the loosest sense possible) out of newspaper, and snipped away at my fabric until I had what closely resembled a potential cover. It wasn't until I began sewing the pieces up that I wished I had taken more care to ensure things were square, but oh well, nothing that can't be fixed with permanent mood lighting...

  I used an envelope-style closing as a) I can't afford zips, b) I don't actually know how to put zips in, c) I am lazy, or d) all of the above. Buttons still need to be 'discovered' in mum's sewing kit, but until then, with their back to the couch, I am very happy with my latest craft attempt.

Now, with THREE cushions each, reading has never been more comfortable!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mid-winter Garden

A snapshot of my mid-winter garden...

Broccoli (my first successful head ever, and there are two more!)


Silverbeet, turnips, cavolo nero, spinach, beetroot

New blueberry plants

New rhubarb plant



Broad bean flowers. No bees around to pollinate them unfortunately. Hopefully come summer they will pod up. The green leaves are good to eat though, for both humans and bunnies.

Align Center


Cherry tree buds

Just arrived this morning! Much daydreaming and planning to be done...

What is in your garden at the moment?

Christchurch Farmers Market

Every Saturday morning, without fail, Paddy and I can be found at the Christchurch Farmers Market. With the exception of that I grow myself or get from generous friends, I buy all of our produce and eggs from here. We eat very little meat in our house but are looking to start purchasing this from here as well. I love knowing I am supporting local businesses, with the added bonus of most of the produce being either certified organic, or at least spray-free, and freshly picked that morning. And on top of all of that, it is no more expensive than going to a supermarket. I highly recommend everyone hunts out their local farmers market and pays it a visit!

Aside from good coffee (my one a week), gorgeous, fresh, local produce and friendly stall-holders, the whole vibe of the place is great. It is always chock full of kids and dogs and people pleased it's finally the weekend!

There is always live music as well, and this morning, much to our delight, our favourite was there! Craig Smith is a very talented musician, and was the sunshine to my already wonderful morning. I highly recommend his CDs, and especially his children's one.

The Wonky Donkey Song is without a doubt, my favourite children's song. New Zealand obviously agreed, as it won the Apra Children's Song of the Year in 2008. Another great thing about Craig is all his CDs are packaged in recycled materials, AND he gives a proportion of his earnings from CD sales to various community organisations such as kindergartens and Women's Refuge. What a great guy!

Here is my haul from the market this morning.

Curly kale (organic), two pumpkins, a leek (organic) and a dozen free-range eggs.

Smaller than usual as we still have some left over produce from last week due to a lovely two days away in Wellington. It is slightly frustrating for me to be buying kale as I have four plants of it in my garden! However, they are spindly wee fellows and if I tried to pick their leaves, there would be nothing left of them! Hopefully they will take away in early spring and see me through summer. I can't get enough of kale! I like it roasted, steamed or sauteed mostly, but I'm sure there are many other delicious ways to have it. Does anyone have any great kale recipes they wouldn't mind sharing with me?

It is the last weekend of my university holidays so I have lots of tidying of a very neglected desk to do, as well as some cooking and baking. A ton of silverbeet from some friends will become Hunza Pie and I have a new (secondhand, but new to me) bread book that I am very excited to make something from, in addition to my standard weekend loaf of sourdough. Carbo-loading anyone?!

What are you up to for the weekend?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fruit Tree Friends

Despite the cold winter days (and copious amounts of rain), I just love to pass the time by dreaming of summer and the potential my currently boggy garden has when the sun is shining.
This will be coming up to my third summer of gardening. I am learning constantly, and as I learn, I feel more confident in trying new things...
This year, I am going to attempt stone fruit trees. We live in a small unit quite close to the city. Its outdoor area consists of two small gardens, a back fence and a strip of grass, surrounded predominantly by a concrete courtyard. Not the most conducive environment for self-sufficiency, but I try my best!
These photos might give you an idea of the size of the space I have to work with. Please note these photos are not current.... it's way too wet to be outside photographing my mostly swamp-esque garden today.

Front of house courtyard and corner garden. This garden doesn't get a lot of sun so I mostly grow herbs and lavender here. I had an explosion of borage and nasturtiums in the summer that the bees absolutely loved!

Side of house section of courtyard, taken mid-Summer last year. This still has lots of pots, and to the right under the clothesline we now have grass and a feijoa tree. The tree in the wine barrel is a fruiting cherry- the best present ever from my parents! We gorged ourselves on fresh cherries last summer, which were perfectly ripe on Christmas Day!

Back fence, start of last summer.
Left to right, beans of many varieties, tomato selection, and gherkins. This winter I am growing peas up the trellis and broad beans in the middle section. The end section is far too wet and sunless to grow anything at this time of year unfortunately.

The vegetable garden. It's very small but surprisingly prolific with the right weather!

Since learning about the existence of dwarf fruit trees, I have been dying to add to my small garden family. A trip to the garden centre this weekend to 'see what they had on offer', all of a sudden became a buying spree, and before I knew it, I was home with two new trees and some blueberry bushes, wondering where in the heck they were going to fit!
Despite space issues, I am proud to now welcome to my fruit tree family, a dwarf peach called Pixzee, and a dwarf nectarine called Flavourzee.

New trees, waiting for pots.

Originally, I was only going to buy one, and Paddy and I were disagreeing over whether it would be a peach or a nectarine. Luckily for us (but not so much for my bank balance), either tree needs a mate to help with fertilization. Even more luckily, a peach can help fertilize a nectarine and vice versa. So, now we have both. I may have also picked up two blueberry plants... Opps! Some women buy shoes or handbags, I buy plants. At least my vice feeds me I suppose!

Also waiting for a home. I want to buy a few more of these and plant them in a long planter box.
I love blueberries and the foliage is so beautiful, even in the middle of winter.

I can't wait till these all start to fruit! One day I hope to have a whole orchard of dwarf fruit trees. I may just need a larger section though...