OMG this cake.
Ben took it to work. His workmates devoured it. Then he told them it was vegan, and ran a guessing competition what was in it. NONE of them got it!
This is the best choccie cake recipe I’ve found. Note I didn’t say ‘the best vegan choccie cake recipe’. That wasn’t an accident! So easy, so healthy, and YUM.
The original is here, but I’ve tweaked it a bit. So here it is:
Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Pre heat oven to 170 deg C (150 deg C if fan forced!) – thats 350 deg F for you guys, USA!
Spray-oil and line 2 x loaf tins with baking paper.
In a big bowl, combine:
3 c plain flour
6 T cacao powder
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
In another bowl, combine:
1/4 c coconut oil (melted)
1 ripe avocado (mashed)
2 c water
2 T apple cider or white vinegar
2 t vanilla extract
Whisk these together, then whisk in:
2 c coconut sugar.
Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until well-combined.
Pour 1/2 mix into each lined and greased loaf tin (YEP – YOU GET TWO CAKES!!! One to take to ‘that-thing-you-said-you’d-take-a-plate-to’, and one for the kids for afternoon tea! BONUS!)
Bake 45 min.
If you want an impressive and also vegan choccie frosting for it, use a stick mixer (or hand mixer, or your ENORMOUS POP-EYE ARM STRENGTH) to mix:
2 ripe avocados,
1 cup icing sugar,
1 t vanilla extract,
4 T cacao powder.
And use this to ice it when it’s cool.
It’s getting colder and greyer at Hill Shadow. We still get blue skies, but colours are duller. The air is crisp. Morning frosts are a regular occurance now, and the report this morning said it was 3 degrees celcius.
I’d believe it.
I’ve been knitting lots of warm woolies! I’m about 3/4 through Ben’s woolley socks (he MIGHT get to wear the before the end of winter!). I discovered my friend Bec over at Peg and Jane spins the most amazing wool by hand (amazing skill!) so I’ve HAD to buy some and cast on a little cardi for Tara. Im in love with this wool! And knowing that it came from a small family farm in country Victoria, spun by Bec, and knitted by me, makes it all the more special.
And we bought a new little runabout car for Ben – FINALLY. We just couldnt do the too-ing and fro-ing in in the freezing pitch black early mornings and all hours of the night anymore! So this is Ben’s little work vehicle. And life has settle down CONSIDERABLY since!
Last weekend we scored a few mouldy bales of hay from one of our agisters! Unsuitable as horse feed, but perfect for another bale garden! I’ve filled with layers of green clippings, cardboard, manure, straw, and compost, but so far I’ve just planted some peas and some bits and pieces from the garden. Not really sure what I’ll put in there yet.
And of course in true Hill Shadow Farm style, we’ve had some #accidentalfarming happening, with a butternut pumpkin popping up on its own in the garden and these… er… things.
Someone who has been loving all the wet weather is Katie!
MUDPIES!!! Perfect after-ballet activity!
And speaking of hay, we picked up this load for $4 a bale from an ad on Gumtree! BARGAIN! We got 20 bales, but I’m so getting another 20 when I can! What a steal!!! It’s so nice to have the barn full for winter. Its a comforting feeling; abundance.
Some of the old hay we were given went out to the chooks as a nice warm bed in their chookhouse. And Ben up-cycled this old coffee table into new nesting boxes for the girls – aren’t they brilliant!?
Unfortunately: Disaster. A few nights ago, we made a fatal communication error. I thought Ben had shut the chooks in for the night, he thought I had. We hadn’t. I woke in the night to frantic clucking and I knew. I bolted out in my pjs and gumboots and in my torchlight I saw the flashing eyes of 2 cunning foxes in the dark, licking their lips having helped themselves to our henhouse like theives in the night.
I felt so horribly guilty. We lost 5 girls through stupid forgetfulness, and we both felt absolutely horrible. I now have a very loud piercing alarm set to go off each evening to remind us to SHUT THE CHOOKS IN!!!
The other thing I cant wait for about winter…
3 more weeks!
What do you look forward to about winter?
The second staple recipe in my house is my friend Laura’s Banana Bread. It’s super easy, and it’s like a warm hug from a friend on a cold grey day 🙂
LAURA’S BANANA BREAD
125g butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 teasp baking soda
1/2 teasp salt
3 Large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teasp vanilla
Preheat oven to 180 deg C (160 deg C for fan forced ovens). Mix all wet ingredients together well in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients, and mix till well-combined. Pour into a loaf pan. Bake 50 – 60 min or till skewer comes out clean and top feels ‘springy’.
I promise you it wont last long! And your house will smell AMAZING when it’s baking!
So there you go! 2 staple recipes from my kitchen (2 of many!) that are super easy and yummy for lunchboxes or afternoon tea.
Or midnight snacks 😉
What’s baking at your house?
Waking up for the school routine today was just a bit greyer. A bit darker. The butter was unspreadably hard on the bench top. Katie asked where her school jumper was.
Autumn is here.
And I was over reading Kate’s post today, and it made me crave my ultimate warm comfort food: Avocado, Vegemite and Tomato on toast.
Unfortunately our Grosse Lisse’s aren’t doing so great. There’s SO many on the vines, but the minute one of them starts to show a hint of colour: BLOSSOM END ROT.
Ive brought a few green ones inside to see if I can ripen them on the window sill. So disappointing.
|Sticks and Dip|
The cuc’s are going gangbusters! Growing fast than I can pick them! Katie has cucumber in her lunch everyday, and luckily, Tara’s favourite lunch is “Sticks and Dip”.
Taking the lead from my fellow thrifty homesteading bloggers, Ive attempted to preserve some, and make some lacto-fermented cucumber pickle. (I used the same method I used here.)
Soon it’ll be time to plant seedlings in our winter foam planters for our next bale garden. Which we haven’t got the bales for yet. And to finish our dog fence. Which we haven’t got the wire for yet. And stack our season’s firewood. Which we haven’t got the chainsaw fixed, or started collecting yet. Or cleaned the chimney.
Ive been losing a fair bit of sleep lately.
|Winter Foamy Seedling System!|
Time’s just flying by. Proof of this: Katie our big school girl is 5 in a few weeks!!! I’ve knitted her these cute slippers from Ravelry. Purple by request!
|Cookie knows how to stay warm.|
Our plans for Autumn:
More Ex-batts – we’re down to 11 girls, so we’ll be adopting 10-15 more.
Hay stockpile – for the bale garden AND to last Will the winter! We currently have about 15 bales, but I’d feel much better with a stockpile of 30 or 40 more in our barn.
Firewood stockpile and service the chimney -it’s not working so great. we’ve been getting a fair bit of smoke in the house and it doesn’t draw very well.
Blackberry Jam – The blackberries are finished, and I have a freezer full of berries ready for pies and jams! I found a Slowcooker Jam recipe (Is there ANYTHING they cant do?!) – I HAVE to try it!
Cast on some beanies and winter woolies for us! – Winter is coming! Time to get knitting!
…It’s not such a big To Do list, right?
Plus we have to workout what we need to plant now, build a new bale garden, sort out our finanaces, plan and hold Katie’s 5th birthday party, mow the lawn, prune the fruit trees…
*BREATHES HEAVILY INTO PAPER BAG*
At least I’ll be less of a One Woman Farm in the next few weeks: Ben had his last scheduled chemo session today! HURRAH! Hopefully this means he’s on the road to recovery. we’re very grateful that his prognosis is so positive, and we’re fairly certain he won’t need too much more treatment after this. Others are not so lucky, and cant be that certain of a positive outcome. For them there’s no end in sight to the chemo/radiation nightmare. My heart goes out to all those people. I’ve reminded myself of that often over the past few weeks, and it’s how I’ve stayed grateful and positive (even on the days I hit rock bottom. And there were a few of those too.)
Livestrong. Be grateful. Winter is coming, but so too is Spring.
Big love xx
|Kindness. Always kindness.|
|Found! A feral mint patch in the gully! FREE FOOD! Woot!|
|Blackberry-ing in the gully.|
This week was totally consumed with chemotherapy. Ben had to go everyday at 9am, sit in a hospital chair, while his body was effectively fed poison, again, and again, and again. He’s been amazing: sleeping lots, woozy and weak, but every minute he feels well enough, he’s helping out or playing with the girls.
He gets nausea – there’s a pill for that.
He gets dizzy – there’s a pill for that.
He gets insomnia – there’s a pill for that.
And he’s been chronically constipated (sorry Ben!) – and you guessed it….
I feel so bloody helpless. All I can really do is make him food/drink, let him sleep, check he’s remembered whatever pill he’s due for, and exit the kids whenever possible so he can have some peace! Phew. It’s tiring and emotionally pretty hard. And this is only after week one.
But the garden, it doth provide. It’s all wild and going to seed now. But we still pick cherry toms, basil – loads of that!, lettuce, leeks, spring onion, spinach, corn, oregano, and parsley. Soon, we will hopefully pick our first Grosse Lisse tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, carrots, rocket, and more beetroot.
|Corn! BIG success in a bed that nothing else could survive in because we couldn’t keep the slugs away! But the corn was too tough!|
What to plant next, what to plant next… 😉
We were so proud of our spotty apricots (BEST JAM EVER. SERIOUSLY!), our “Accidental we-thought-they-were-ornamental-but-they’re-not-actually-they’re-just-undersized Plum Jam” and our poor bent apple tree’s 4 little green apples (I juiced em before the birds ate ’em!) . But our figs are so disappointing. They’re HUGE! We had high hopes! But inside they’re dry and completely tasteless. And before they get a chance to go really black, they get eaten (but not by us.). It’s not looking good. I dont know whether it’s because they dont get a chance to go fully ripe, or because the whole massive tree (well over 12 ft!) appears to be thriving from between 2 concrete slabs in an old garden bed and is deprived of water/nutrients/space..? However, every chance it gets, it send out new shoots, and it is massive and loaded with fruit, so I figure it cant be fareing too badly! Truly, you wouldn’t believe the mutant base of this tree and where it’s growing from. Isn’t nature’s resilience amazing?!
|Tomatoes and basil: perfect bedfellows x (and that garden bed literally used to be A BED. Recycling, doncha know!?)|
And can we recommend SWEET BITE as a cherry tomato variety?!?! Holy crud, these guys PRODUCED! For such a compect little bush (I’m talking balcony-pot-plant size!) they are LOADED with fruit, and the girls snack off those 2 little bushes every day! Highly recommended!
And our poor chookies appear to have… um… colds?! I’ve noticed a few looking listless, and they appear to have ‘snotty’ beaks and bubbly eyes… OMG – what?! You guys cant be sick too?! So Im frantically googling and I’ve added some garlic granules to their drinking water. and I swear I saw some lice on one of them… (There’s probably a pill for that.)
So tonight I’m listening to the wild wind, contemplating a shower and the washing up, googling chook antibiotics, wondering WHY THE HELL Katie isn’t going to sleep, drinking tea, savouring a belly full of cauliflower crust pizza (TRY IT), feeling grateful to live in a country that offers subsidised childcare in difficult circumstances, and trying to breathe deeply and evenly.
One day at a time.
41 degrees celcius yesterday – and we survived! Thanks to all our preventive mulching and watering, the garden seems to have held up, and the chooks spent their day in under the bushes in the gardens and being very sensible.
Thankfully, the girls were still up on the South Coast of NSW with my parents having a ball at the beach, and blissfully cool.
We spent the christmas break up there enjoying family time in the sand and saltwater. Katie’s cousin Harry even taught her to fish. In her crown and tutu: Of course!
But now it’s back to the farm, and my parents have kept the girls for a week extra holiday to allow Ben and I sometime to arm ourselves against the next few weeks, where Ben will be undergoing his chemotherapy. My aim was to get the house clean (I can do this better when I dont have 2 little mud princesses here undoing my good work as fast as I can get it done!), get some meals prepped, my freezer and pantry full, and my paperwork in order. Plus go out for dinner, ride my horse, and sleep in a few times!
|We accidentally grew 2 potatoes! Woohoo! #accidentalfarming #accidentalharvest|
The garden had absolutley EXPLODED in the week we were away! I came come to a bucket full of peas (all now shelled and in the freezer!) and a nice little stash of apricots, which have a ‘rust’ on them unfortunatley, but still taste AMAZING and made a HUGE jar of apricot jam! Recipe here if you wanna try it: Super easy! Used it for plum jam and apricot – works great for both!)
And I planted some wheatgrass. Wheat grass juice: We’ll be doing it lots. Here’s a handy youtube how-to. And I was inspired to do it via this. Plus it’s a really yummy green juice shot/add in for your juices. (Note: You really need a slow juicer or a mastication juicer to do wheatgrass. Normal centrifugal juicers dont work on wheatgrass. Not sure why, but I’ve tried, and they don’t! I got my hurom-style juicer from Target for $60 and it’s worked a treat! One day though, I’d love one of these babies…!)
So I bought my peat ($2 from Bunnings – bargain.) and soaked it in 4.5L of water in a bucket.
I soaked my organic wheat overnight in a jar on a windowsill til it started to germinate.
And I put down a thin layer of damp peat, a thin layer of wheat, and another thin layer of damp peat over the top and put it in my mudroom on the window ledge. I’ll let you know how it goes…
I also decided to stock my freezer with food and easy crock-pot/slowcooker meals for hassle-free dinners on chemo days. I spent a whole day chopping veg from my produce market, but now have a freezer full of ziplock bags that I can dump into my slowcooker in the morning, add water, and come home to dinner done at night! things like Pumpkin soup, minestrone, lentil bolognese, veggie noodle souple (just add chicken if you like!), and mexi-beans. Plus I bought 2 BBQ chooks and broke them down into stirfry/soup pieces and put them in freezer bags for meals. And I froze some bananas and blueberries for smoothies. The freezer is *STOCKED*.
On the super-hot day, I decided to try making Belle’s saurkraut from The Whole Pantry book. (Have you read it? Its beautiful. Santa bought it for me for christmas!)
Let me tell you – it is YUMMY. I had to stop myself from eating it all then and there! But it needs a few days to ferment so we can get some good bacteria going in there!
…Hurry up saurkraut!
Ben shaved his hair short the other day in preparation, and seeing him like that really brought it crashing down around my ears for a few moments, to be honest. It’s gonna be a big few weeks and sometimes I really feeling the fear of the unknown creeping in. At those times I just breathe and repeate a few mantras:
1. Just keep going. Be in the moment. Do what you need to do. Get it done.
2. Ask for help.
3. This too will pass.
4. Breathe, slow down, be here.
Happy New Year to you and yours. Thankyou for stopping by my blog. It’s nice to know we’re not alone x
Things are winding up for the year, but it doesn’t mean we’re any less busy! Infact we’re flying around to christmas carols, end of year functions, concerts, and presentations! Phew! We had a busy one when both Kate’s ballet concert AND hip hop end of year concert were on on the same weekend!
Which was tonnes of fun and SO SO cute. Ben even came third in the Dad’s Dance-off competition! (That was at the hip hop concert. Would’ve been a very different competition at the ballet concert.)
Thie girls have decorated and helped me wrap presents. Kate made all of her friends presents this year, and we made handmade gifts for the family. Our decorating in the house is fairly minimal, as we’ll spend christmas day and boxing day with our families up in NSW. Cookie the dog will come with us for the trip, but Will and the chooks will stay behind to man the fort! They’re being fed by a friend while we’re gone. Ugh, I HATE not seeing my horse on christmas day. He is very much a part of my family and I hate that I cant give him his bag of carrots and cuddles on the day. Oh well, its only a few days.
At least he finally seems to have acclimatised to Melbourne, and is looking really well! Finally! He had us a bit worried there for a while!
It’s been fairly hot and muggy – which the garden loves! – but which sends us inside most afternoons to escape the heat! The girls have taken to drawing and colouring of late. Its cute to see them getting along so well together. And though Tara still doesn’t say much, she always lets us know in no uncertain terms what she wants. The girls are so different that way!: Katie was an very sweet, easy going, even tempered baby. Tara is a firey, spirited kid. She wants to do it on her own! She wants THAT one, no not that one, THAT one. She wants her pink hair clip, to wear these shoes, and what you’re eating! She makes me laugh – she definitely knows her own mind already!
The chooks have been laying 6 eggs a day, and Lennon seems to have finally recovered his mojo! And his crow!
Mrs Fox seems to have settled down a bit now – I think her babies may have left the den. She’s less ravenous for food, and we’ve not seen her or her young ones for a few weeks. Which makes me really happy as I’ve been able to let the chooks free range again for a good part of each day.
Tara adores the chooks, and they have absolutely no fear of her. She loves to collect the eggs and feed them bread scraps. Although you have to be sure she doesn’t mix the 2 jobs up: Today she collected the eggs in her bucket, then promptly sat down took and egg out and threw it to the chooks. Whoops. I managed to save the other 5 and swap them for actual chook food before she tossed any more!
Its such a privildge to live here and have this life, and I feel lucky everyday with the freedom and space the girls have, and that we can grow this food and these animals. I cant imagine life in an inner-city apartment. It would certinly be very very different.
However we’re not that isolated that we’re cut-off from city amenities, which is lucky, as Ben recently received the bad news that he has had Testicular Cancer and will need to undergo some chemo therapy in the new year following the surgery he just had. It was certainly a shock, I was so sure he was going to be cleared, it took me a while to get a grip on myself. We have had such a tough and life-changing 12 months: Why was this happening to us?! Now?! When we have 2 young kids, no family around us, and just before christmas!? It wasnt fair! We’re good people! ben is young and strong. We’ve been through so much already!? Why why why?!
I still dont know. All I know is that cancer happens to lots of very good people, and that we are strong, and we will get through this thing too. We have to. we will take it one step at a time, and do what we need to do. And we will ask for help. And we will breathe, and hug the girls, and cry, and be angry, and just keep plodding along. that’s all we can do.
Of course I did what I usually do. I went to the library.
Oh the library. Place of safety, and wonder, and information, and the smell of musty, papery, printy booky loveliness. As the only child of a single mum who worked very very long hours when I was groing up, I spent alot of time in my local library. It was my second home. My safe place. I knew all the librarians by name, and they all knew me. I had a favourite spot. I knew the opening hours off by heart. And I still feel an overwhelming sense of ‘home’ the minute I walk into a library. Im quite claustrophobic by nature, but I love sitting between narrow shelves with books towereing on all sides of me. A Book Igloo.
I’ve borrowed a few titles in preparation. Food-related, of course. Because that’s my other defense mechanism: cooking. Cooking and Reading. Yeah – that’s exactly what you want in an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse. The enemy will be bearing down, and I’ll be quoting Jane Austin and whipping up a souffle. Brilliant.
I’ve borrowed Belle Gibson’s The Whole Pantry – she’s a woman living with inoperable brain cancer, who is treating herself wholistically and using alternative means. I’ve borrowed The Cancer Fighting Kitchen – I gotta try this broth! And Pete Evan’s Healthy Every Day – which is a bit intimidating, I have to say. Ceviche? Okra? Yuzu? Gremolata? Whut?! Slow down, Pete! Slow down!
But first: Christmas. All that can wait til after christmas.
I’ve made my Nanny Dorothy’s famous christmas pudding – an annual tradition – and it’s ready for custard and cream! Here’s the recipe, passed down through 4 generations of women in my family, and the pudding making-torch will be passed to Katie when she’s older.
Make it. And eat it warm, with custrad, surrounded by your loved ones. And dont forget to tip your face skyward and tell Dorothy how yummy it is. Give her a thumbs up: She’d like that.
Dorothy’s Famous Chrissy Pud
500g mixed dried fruit (whatever you like! I like sultanas, blueberries, cherries and currants.)
6 oz plain flour (Yeah it’s ounces. it’s an old recipe k?! Try finging a converter online. There’s an app for that…)
1/2 t mixed spice
1/2 t nutmeg
2 oz breadcrumbs
4 oz butter (do yourself a favour use butter, not marg!)
1 grated carrot (see?! Veggies! Healthy!)
3 oz brown sugar
3 eggs (please choose free range x )
1 t lemon juice
1 t Parisian Essence (Yes that’s a thing. It’s in the supermarket. Near the vanilla essences and food colouring and stuff…)
Brandy to flavour. (Or rum essence in a pinch)
Soak fruit in brandy (or essence) overnight in a sealed container, shaking occasionally. In a large bowl, sift flour and spices. Add butter and belend well. Add crumbs, fruit mix, carrot and brown suagr. Mix then add beaten eggs and essences. (If the mix is too thick, you can moisten it with a little milk.)
Place in a well-greased pudding tin, placing alfoil across the top then the lid to ensure a good seal.Place pudding dish into a large boiler pot. Fill pot with boiling water, so water leverl is just under the lid of the pudding dish. (Place a marble or two in the water – if it’s beginning to boil dry, the marble will ‘ting-ting-ting’ on the side of the pot and warn you!) Constantly top up water as needed. place lid on and boil 5 hours.
Well, I hope you have a wonderful chrissy/holiday with your loved ones.
How will you spend it?
Drive safely, be happy, give generously, laugh muchly.
Hill Shadow Inventory:
Rooster – 1
Chickens – 14
Horse – 1
Dog – 1
Fox – ?
Humans – 4
Daily eggs – 3 or 4
Sleeps til christmas – 24
Unfortunatley the closest we’ve gotten Tara to Santa is waving to this reindeer at the mall.
…well, it’s a start.
And our garden produced this amazing beetroot which was ready before all the rest – isn’t it beautiful?!
It’s getting warmer and warmer! The girls are in dresses, sandals and shorts.
UGH! STOP PRESS!
Chickens – 13
Can you believe that?! Just as I was typing that last bit, Mrs Fox took another one, right from our front door step!!! There’s feathers everywhere!
|The scene of the crime.|
At first I did a quick head count and I was horrified that she took Katie’s favourite chook, Shiny. But luckily, Shiny has a favourite hiding spot on her own round back under the fig tree, and a quick check found her to be there as usual, oblivious to what had just happened round front.
|Shiny: lives to dig figs another day!|
Phew! I have no idea how I would’ve broken that to Katie this afternoon!
Lennon is recovering beautifully from his ordeal and has actually begun to crow again in the last few days. Unfortunately I think it may take him a while to regain his former glory. His crow sounded a mix between an old fashioned car horn (“A-HOO-GA!”) and a set of deflating bagpipes.
Kate and I made sure we made encouraging comments. (“Gee Lennon, that sounds… er… well that’s really… um… yeah good try, Mate!”)
Christmas activities are ramping up: Concerts, parties, and Katie’s kinder graduation (Where did THAT time go?!) are all in the next few weeks.
One of the events I did check in at was the open day of our local Steiner School. Although I dont wholly agree with the Steiner/Waldorf approach to education, there is so much I love about it: The avoidance of commercialism, the focus on nature, the peacefulness, the importance of creativity.
Feeling totally inspired when I got home, Katie and I made a 2-storey fairy house in the yard, and Kate spent ages furnishing it with feathers, leaves and flowers.
Look! We have apples!!!
Yeah ok: not real great for a whole tree. But the poor tree is on its side, totally eclipsed and deprived of water and sun by the 2 massive cypress’ next to it. So it’s a wonder it’s managed to survive at all, let alone bear fruit.
I was hoping to have some apricots or figs to make jam from for christmas presents this year, but alas – no dice. Still green and under-ripe. BUT! I just happened to taste a bit of the ‘ornamental’ plum in the front yard, and knock-me-down – it’s edible!!! They’re just little plums! And it seems the birds have been fooled too – they haven’t noticed them! So I’ve picked a bunch and spent this morning having my first attempt at jam-making!
|Little kitchen helper fairy.|
It’s a sticky red mess in my kitchen, but i’ll let you know how it goes! Here’s the recipe I used.
And lastly I made this raw vegan caramel slice this week.
Oh. My. Word.
Do your self a favour – download the Raw Desserts App from Ascension Kitchen and make a batch.
Have you finished your christmas shopping?
Are you making any handmade gifts this year?
Do you Waldorf? Steiner? Montessori? Homeschool? Unschool? None? All?