Weekends, Hill Shadow-style.

This week Ben happened to pick up a packet of the Pancake Parlour’s pancake mix, and was absolutely astounded at how many ingredients were listed! I mean, they’re yummy, but I have no idea why a pancake mix would contain so many things. Maybe to help you justify the price of buying something that’s so simple to make at home!
Rarely does a weekend go by here where we don’t have pancakes. They’re super easy! Our pancake recipe is loosely based on Jamie Oliver’s one
HILL SHADOW FARM PANCAKES
Serves 4 -ish
2 cups SR flour (we use 1/2 wheat, 1/2 gluten free. I hear buckwheat flour works well too!)
2 cups milk of your choice (we use soy)
2 eggs (free range ONLY and ALWAYS, please x)
Pinch salt.
That’s seriously it! 
Whisk ingredients together til well-combined.
We cook our pancakes on our sandwich press left open – It works a treat! But your fry pan/skillet is fine. A medium/low temp is best. 
Pour out pancakes of 10 – 15 cm and wait until the air bubbles on the surface pop and don’t fill back in. The top of the pancake will be covered in craters & look ‘dry’ (not like wet batter) when it’s ready to flip. 
Serve with local honey or real maple syrup (it’s worth spending a little extra for the real stuff!)
I hope you’re out enjoying this beautiful weekend with your loved ones! I’m washing some beautiful alpaca fleece ready to card and spin. Won’t take long to dry today! 

Right, now go put your washing out, then make a cup of coffee and take it out under a tree with a good book x
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Ve-ghurt.

Guys guys guys! I found another epic vegan recipe!

I made vegan coconut yoghurt! And its freaking amazing!!! Seriously: Even the kids love it!

And this stuff is SO. EASY.

I found the recipe at Chocolate and Zucchini, and pretty much followed it to the letter, using 3 x 400ml tins of full fat coconut milk, and 1/2 cup No Udder coconut yoghurt (From Woolworths) as a starter. Whisked it all together, divvied it up into the little jars in the yoghurt machine. Turned on my little yoghurt maker and left it alone for 24 hours. PRESTO!

Easy as! (Think of all those amazing gut bacterias!)

You gotta get yourself one of these little yoghurt makers – I got mine from Aldi for about $20. I bought it to make conventional dairy yoghurt when my kids were little, and we just could not get it to set! We tried all kinds of things! Fail after fail after fail. So its basically been in my cupboard doing nothing for about 3 years.

I whipped it out to give this a go, and BOOM! PERFECT YOGHURT. First go. Coconut yoghurt ROCKS.

This morning I had it with 3 chopped fresh strawberries and a level teaspooon of coconut sugar. AMAZING.

So look, there really is no excuses for me not to be vegan now! ‘What do I miss out on?:

Yoghurt – nope. Making as much as I want!
Milk – soy (ALDI organic!) or Pureharvest Oat milk
Cheese – Bio Cheese FTW! (Coles)
Ice Cream – Soy Good Soy Icecream, in moderation!
Eggs – I do eat the odd egg from our lovely free range back yard chookies, but there’s TONNES of substitutions! (Right Maxine? x) Chia, avocado, oil and vinegar….
Meat – berk. Try tofu, kidney beans, peanut patties, vege snags and i had the best burgers this week, by substituting a beef pattie with a GIANT, FAT grilled mushroom. Took up the whole bun! OMG drool.
Butter – Coconut oil in recipes, and Nuttelex spread on toast.
Bacon – gimme a break… #facepalm

Did I miss anything? 😉

This is not about how I look anymore. This is not about weight loss. I ate for weight loss for the last 20 years and it made me freakin MISERABLE. And I still got fat anyway! This is eating for how I FEEL. This is love through food. My tummy feels good, my head feels clear, and my heart is happy.

Go on – make the yoghurt. Its a game changer x

The recipe you’ve all been waiting for…

OMG this cake.

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
Set aside.

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.

OM NOM NOM. Who said vegan food had to be all spinach and mung beans?!

Baking, Bikkies, and Beautiful Banana Bread

With the warm yellow sunny days now fading and turning crisper, I thought it might be a great opportunity to share some of my go-to, no-fail baking recipes!
These are regulars in Katie’s lunchbox, or when we need morning tea! 
First, my NO FAIL AWESOME ALL PURPOSE BISCUIT RECIPE!
Yummy! EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
3/4 cup SR flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
125g butter, softened.
Mix ingredients and knead with hands to form a stiff dough. Roll teaspoonfuls into balls and press lightly onto a lined baking tray. Bake 180 deg celcius (160 degrees if fan forced) for 12 mins for a soft cookie, 15 min for a crunchy one.
You can substitute lots of things for choc chips! I’ve used nuts, sultanas, muesli, dried fruit, m&ms…
You can substitute coconut sugar or stevia for the brown sugar.
You can substitute 1/2 cup coconut oil for the butter if you want a dairy-free version.
So versatile!

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
2 eggs
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?
xx

Autumnal anxieties.

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.

Finish the dog-proof fence – to enclose a new four-legged addition to the family we’ll adopt soon… saty tuned…

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

Christmas Concerts, Chemotherapy, Crayons and Cookbooks.

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 )
dash vanilla
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.
xx

Plums, poultry, preserving and pom poms.

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.

In the afternoon, while Tara had her sleep, Kate and I listened to Tchaikovksy’s Swan Lake Suite (My favourite!) and made pom-poms.

Look! We have apples!!!

THREE 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.

You’re welcome.

Have you finished your christmas shopping?
Are you making any handmade gifts this year?
Do you Waldorf? Steiner? Montessori? Homeschool? Unschool? None? All?

Go count your chickens.
xx

Lumps, loaves, loss and lacto bacilli.

They said it would have its ups and downs. Boy, ‘they’ weren’t kidding! It has been a week of epic proportions, but finally, I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
You’ll probably remember from my last post, that on Monday, my poor little dog Henry was hit by a car and killed. Following that devastating day, it was confirmed that my hubby Ben did indeed have a mass on his testicle, and that he would need further tests to see if the cancer cells had spread. 
Cancer.
That threw us all into a state of ‘survival mode’. CT scans followed blood tests, and surgery was booked for the coming Thursday, pending results. Chemotherapy was mentioned. 
So what did we decide to do?
We threw a party.

Well, a bonfire really. And a BBQ dinner for all the people we’ve met in Melbourne so far. What a great way to remind yourself in times like these that you’re really not alone. We laughed. We toasted giant marshmallows. The kids played hide and seek in the dark with torches, and burnt sticks, and skinned their knees. We ate Ben’s homemade flat bread cooked on the BBQ with way too much garlic in the dip. The girls were tired, sweaty, and dirty. Hair all wild and sticky with marshmallow. It was a great night.

One of the Hill Shadow Farm ‘ferals’ hard at work on the apple blossoms.

The garden has been loving this rain! And we planted more veg and noticed more fruit.

Oh look! A guava!
Oh look – are they plums? Do you reckon they’re edible?

We are now contemplating how the heck we’re going to keep the birds off the fig, the apple, the plum, the apricot, and the guava. Looks like we might be spending a fortune on netting… eep.

And to add insult to injury, the loss of our beautiful canine ‘chicken guardian’ has given Mrs Fox a total free run at our free range chookies. She took 3 this week. So we’re down to 13 including Lennon the Rooster, and reduced to dropping everything and bolting outside at the slightest cluck. Our other dog Cookie is completely hopeless. She just lives to sunbake and dust bathe. She cares not for the safety of poultry.

So when all was chaos, I turned to the one bit of affirmative action that the Cancerian in me defaults to.

I cooked.

I could not control the outcome of the blood tests. I could not control cars or hungry mother foxes with pups, or birds, or irrational angry agisters, or sleepless toddlers, or the internal workings of my car when it went ‘BOOM!’ and decided to no longer operate on gas THIS WEEK OF ALL WEEKS.

But I could stuff my husband so full of nutrients and vitamins that bloody cancer wouldn’t know what had hit it. Everytime Ben turned around, I was handing him lemon water to drink. Or fish oil tablets. Or an intensly green, odd-smelling juice. Or a purply-red one. Or a fermented drink. Or tea.

“HEAL DAMN YOU!!! HEAL!!!”

Some of this – ahem, well, probably all of it – was completely pointless and based on unfounded nutritional theory. But it made me feel better. I was doing SOMETHING. I was fighting, dammit!

Funny how people react in a crisis.

So one of the things I made was a batch of Lacto-fermented radish pickles that I made from a bag of radishes I bought on the ‘reduced’ table of my local produce market. LOVE MY PRODUCE MARKET. (But LOVE their ‘reduced’ table even more!)

I’d never done this before, but I love me a good pickle – German background coming out there. Thanks Oma and Opa! x -and I hear that good gut health and an alkaline enviromment in the body can hinder cancer cell growth (you see how crazy it got?!). So yeah: pickle. Bring it on!

I got this super easy recipe from an article by Asphyxia in Grass Roots Magazine no. 211.
Basically you chop up your veg (cabbage, radish, cucmber, beans, carrot, whatevs!) into bite-sized pieces (but if you’re like me, you’ll whip out your spiraliser and happily spiral away for hours. Love that thing!). You use a big clean, dry jar, and you pack your veg in tightly adding 1 tablespoon of salt per 600g of veg. Then you top it up until the veg is covered with clean cold water. It helps to add a little culture to encourage things along, but you dont have to. I tipped in about a teaspoonful of Yakult (Lacto bacilli! Yeah!) but you can use some whey off the top of your yoghurt, or a bit of the juice from a previous batch of pickle.

That’s it! Let the little critters work their magic! Asphyxia says to weigh the veg down with something to ensure theyre submerged to stop mould, but mine were so full, I just gave them a shake or 2 each day. After 5 days I had a quick sample – and it tasted great! Just like saurkraut! So I popped them in the fridge, and we’ve been eating them with salads and with dinner. So easy. And such a pretty colour! Looks great in the jar!

The other thing I whipped up – *wink* – was a sour dough. Oh but I haven’t got time for kneading and rising and knocking back and blah blah blah…. *Aint Nobody Got Time Fo Dat!*

So I’ve come up with a little cheat. You wanna know how I do it?

“shh, c’mere” *Looks furtively around and leans in*

I use my slow cooker.

Yeah i know its not really ‘baking’ or whatevs. Do you care? I dont care! Do you? Nuh, neither do I.

Right. So here’s how you do it. Keep it under your hat. You’ll be the most popular person at parties. And  no one will know our dirty secret, ok?

Right, so you’ve got your starter. (You dont?! Oh ok – go back here and start one.)
So if you’ve done your ‘sponge’ last night, good on you. If you didn’t – doesnt matter too much. I did my first slow cooker loaf just using a scoop of starter and it was fine. but it does work better if you’ve made a sponge.

So. To your sponge add 3 cups flour (I used rye and wholemeal spelt, but you use whatever you like) 1/2 tsp salt, and about 1/2 c warm water. Knead this into a dough. Now I dont know how long you do this for. I’ve heard its all “when-you-get-a-window-in-the-dough” or “10 minutes no more or less” or “When you can stretch it and tie it into a half winsdor knot” – I have no idea. I just knead mine for a bit, until it’s kinda firm but elastic, and not gluing itself to my fingers annoyingly.

Now comes the hard bit.

Whack it in your slow cooker.

You might want to spray the inside with a bit of oil so it doesn’t stick, but you basically are going to let the LOW setting on your slow cooker do the rising bit for you. Genius. Takes about 1 hour, but I just look at it every now and then, and when I think “oh yeah. It’s definitley much bigger” – that’s the point to turn it up to HIGH. It may expand and conform to the inside of your cooker bowl. Lady, if you’re looking for a perfect, french artisian sourdough loaf: This ain’t your recipe. But if you dont mind a loaf that is a little football-shaped, then proceed.

If, after a few hours – like I said, not an exact science – the top of the loaf is dry and you can knock on it – it’s done! And you can tip that sucker out (WITH OVEN MITTS!) and eat it right now if you like! But if you want a golden brown crust to impress your friends, you might want to just pop it in a 200 deg c oven for 15 min or so. And then your house smells like baking bread. And everyone marvels at your domestic prowess.

“WOW – BREAD FROM SCRATCH?! Where DO you get the time?!”
“Oh this old thing?! It was nothing…!” *wink wink*

Yeah it’s a bit of an odd shape. But sliced up with butter and honey and the kids will eat it so fast they wont even notice!

So today I am plodding along. We got the news that Ben’s cancer cells haven’t spread (PRAISE BE!) and I’m planning what books I’ll read and what knitting I’ll take while I’m waiting at the hospital on Thursday. 13 chickens and counting. And we’re having pizza for dinner. (Hey: Nobody’s perfect!)

What do you do in a crisis?
Are you having the week from hell too?
Know where I can get some cheap orchard netting?

Be kind, stay calm, and get your brothers/husbands/boyfriends/dads to check for lumps. Seriously.
xx

Brownies, baking, and balloon-legs.

Poor old Will has a fat leg! Im not sure how, but he’s cut it somewhere in his paddock, and its puffed up like a balloon! I’ve hosed it out & sprayed the wound with tea tree, and added some garlic and tumeric to his feed for anti-inflamatory effects, and we’ll see how he goes. Other than that, he’ll be resting.

Which you know he hates.

OHH THE HUMANITY!!!

Today Katie and I cooked up a batch of brownies while Tara had her morning nap. These were using coconut flour, and let me just state from the outset that I haven’t had alot of success with coconut flour recipes. And by that I mean, no success. everything Ive cooked has turned out rubbery, tasteless, or dry.

But at last! SUCCESS!!! These brownies are BEAUTIFUL! AND refined sugar and grain-free, which is a bonus! Even the kids wanted seconds!

So of course I will share the recipe! I got it from Pinterest, but I gather the original is from www.naturalnews.com .

PALEO BROWNIES (No refined sugar, dairy, grain)

1/2 c coconut flour
1/2 c cacao powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda

Combine these dry ingredients in one bowl.

1/2 c honey (Raw if you have it. Pretty sure you could use maple syrup too)
1/3 c coconut oil
5 free range eggs
2 T water

Combine these wet ingredients in another bowl.

Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring well. pour mix into a well-greased 8×8 brownie pan and smooth top. The original recipe says ‘bake at 350 deg F for 30 minutes’ which I think is about 170 deg C, BUT my oven is hot and fan-forced, so i only baked for 27min at 150 deg C. You know your oven: Just keep an eye on them. If the top is ‘dry’ and it is ‘springy’ in the middle, I reckon you’re done.
Let cool before slicing.

Om nom nom.

Got any other proven yummy coconut flour recipes you can share?
Now excuse me, Katie and I have some important bowl-licking to do…
xx
  
 

Disappointments, drownings, damage, and darned good recipes!

Oh dear…

Well, I have prooved my point about not being able to grow a thing and having no green thumbs to speak of…. Of our 5 little herb seedlings we planted last weekend: Not one survived.

Partially – in our defense! – this was because 2 days after we planted the little babies, we had a freak hailstorm (hail the size of marbles!) and there was a bit of damage to their delicate little fronds.

The rest has been eaten by… Something.

Damn.

So far, our food growing/homesteading/’feed our whole family from the garden’ dream is looking pretty grim. 0/5. Not only was I feeling particularly glum about this failure, but then found that one of our poor hens had fallen into a horse water trough while we’d been out, and drowned. And another is looking like she’s not long for this world (although I suspect that’s more to do with her age, than bad luck).

It’s hard not to feel disheartened. How do we combat a pest in our veggie patch when we’re not even sure what it is?! Rabbits? Slugs? Birds? Will this be our fate?: Working hard and spending a fortune to feed the wildlife?!

Something that is still feeding us, however is the citrus – THANK GOODNESS FOR THE CITRUS! It has served to keep my faith that we can grow food here! Oh sure, the cockatoos take a share of the oranges, but we can afford to share! There’s plenty to go round!

Katie’s latest favourite activity is to pick a bucket of oranges off the tree, juice them all like crazy, and make orange icypoles! It’s wonderful knowing she’s learning about where food comes from, but also making a preservative/refined sugar free snack, and she can do it all by herself!
And I found a wonderful EASY MICROWAVE LEMON CURD recipe which I have been making use of to use up all those lemons!
Now Im including this without permission from the author – but only because I dont know how to contact her to ask her! But it’s just too good not to include, and full credit goes to Nancy Johnson of Speers Court – Nancy, I hope you dont mind! x
Easy Microwave Lemon Curd 
(Makes about 600mls-ish.)
180ml lemon juice
zest of all the juiced lemons (I only actually used zest of 2 lemons)
4 egg yolks
3 eggs extra
3/4 cup caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
Place all ingredients into a microwave proof bowl and microwave on medium for 6-8 min stopping to whisk every minute. (You know it’s done when it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon)
I strained the zest out of mine before I chilled it, but you certainly dont have to!

SO SO SO YUMMY!

How do you keep pests out of your garden?
What do your kids/grandkids love to cook?

Just heading out to put some wire over that water trough: Chooks cant swim well. Apparently.
RIP little chookie x