23 January 2017

Plan, organise and knit

We slow down and relax during December and January. The garden produces a few herbs and fruit so it only needs watering, Hanno mows the lawn on his ride-on mower and apart from excursions to the backyard in the early morning and evening, we spend time inside, out of the heat. I use the time to plan for the year ahead, clean and organise cupboards and drawers, and I knit. Every couple of years I knit a 10 - 12 dishcloths for our use here and I might do a few more fancier ones for gifts. I use the end pieces of knitting cotton I've used during the year on other projects. It provides me with dishcloths for the kitchen and it uses cotton that might otherwise be wasted. This year I'm also making a shawl for myself. I have two others. I love knitting them because they're so easy and they keep me cosy and warm during the winter. In our climate, we rarely have special clothes for winter. A cardigan or jumper with a shawl is all I need for even the coldest day here.

I'm very fortunate to have been sponsored by Ecoyarns for several years now so I have a good supply of high quality, environmentally sound and ethically produced cotton and wool. Many years ago I used to knit with the cheapest wool and cotton I could buy but now I know that it's worth the extra money to buy the best I can afford. The amount of time given to homemade knits means I want them to last and look good for years. I have full confidence in the cotton and wool I use from Ecoyarns and I'm happy to knit for my grandchildren and have those garments on their young skin. I think we can be exposed to a lot of elements in our daily lives that may not be good for us. Sometimes it's the air we breathe, sometimes it's something we eat or wear or use on our skin. I try to not add to that by using yarns I'm not sure of. At the moment I'm using Eco-Organic Cotton Clouds in the Virga Blue colour for my shawl. I'm knitting on circular bamboo needles in the simplest pattern possible.  The project after this will be for my granddaughter and I think it will be this little dress.

I'm pleased to tell you that Ecoyarns is expanding its focus to provide a wider range of products. They are a socially responsible company and will choose their products by taking into account manufacturing processes, environmental impact, animal welfare, women's welfare, impacts on the local community and Fair Trade. Salihan and her husband Richard plan to offer us more information on their website so we can make informed choices and be certain of what we buy. We'll see more signs of that as the year progresses.  If you've not shopped online before, I recommend Ecoyarns to you as a trustworthy business. Salihan goes beyond the necessary and normal and provides exceptional service and very beautiful ethically produced yarns. Ecoyarns' details are always in my right side column.

When I'm not knitting, one of the important things we do at this time of year is plan and organise so we go into the new year prepared and with a general idea of what's going to happen. Organising menu plans, revising routines, cleaning cupboards and drawers, mending, knitting, filling in a diary and calendar now, all help me later in the year when it's much busier.  Of course, the unexpected will also happen but when it does, it's easier to cope with if we are organised. When all the work of the year is done and the coming year is planned as much as it can be, I plant myself in a comfy chair, pick up my needles and knit. Sitting back with my soft cottons, knitting row upon row allows me to think about life and what I want from it as the weeks go by. Knitting is like meditation with its repetition and it helps the mind reach a relaxed focus.
Oh yes, here she is again watching as I wind cotton on my swift. She was mesmerised by it and sat there staring for quite some time.

Knitting isn't a seasonal activity for me, I do it year-round. I generally knit with wool in winter and cotton in summer but I mix it around too. There are no rules, I do what I feel like and that makes it all the more relaxing. I like to knit simple patterns that I don't have to think about too much. What are your favourite knits? What's that? You don't knit!  Well, get yourself some knitting cotton, cast on 30 stitches and keep knitting row upon row of whatever stitch is easiest for you.  Knit a square and when it's as big as you want it, cast off. That's your first dishcloth. When you finish, I'd love you to tell me about it.

20 January 2017

Weekend reading

Packing dried oregano into a jar.

Life takes a gentle turn this week. It's back to school for Australian children in a few days so from this weekend, the thousands of tourists who flow into this region for the summer holidays, pack up and go back to normal life.  And all of us do too. Once again there will be parking spaces at the beaches and shops, prices will go back to normal and life will be fairly slow again.

I hope your life is slow and gentle too. Take good care of yourself and come back and see me soon. ❤️

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18 January 2017

Salmon rissoles

I make salmon rissoles or fishcakes fairly regularly as they're a cheap and easy meal that will stretch one can of salmon to feed four people. However, I made this during the week and Jamie didn't like it. He ate what was on his plate, just as he always does, but when we had leftovers the following day the first thing he said was: "not those fishcakes!"  Luckily for him, there was only one left which I had, he and Hanno finished off the chicken cacciatore from the day before. 

For those who do like this kind of pantry food - we always have salmon and potatoes in the cupboard - it's a good standby when you need to rustle up a meal and all the meat is frozen. You can bulk it out with potatoes, breadcrumbs, vegetables and eggs so it ends up being very tasty and nutritious.

  • 2 large or 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 can of salmon (415 g)
  • 1 large or two small eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs - use ¼ cup in the mix and ¾ cup to coat the rissoles
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ bunch fresh parsley or green onions, chopped
  • ½ red capsicum/pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • chilli flakes or fresh chilli (optional)

Cook and mash the potatoes and allow to cool slightly. Add potatoes, salmon, eggs, ¼ cup breadcrumbs, onion, herbs, capsicum/pepper, salt, pepper and anything optional to a large bowl.

Mix together well and shape into round balls, then squash down to make a thick disc. It's up to you how large or small you make them.

Add ¾ cup breadcrumbs to a bowl and coat each rissole with crumbs.  I use Panko for extra crunch. Put the rissoles on a plate and allow them to sit in the fridge for an hour, if possible. This will help the rissoles stay together when you cook them.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add the rissoles to the pan and fry on medium heat until they're golden brown all over. That will take about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towel or clean cloth and serve with a salad. I have mine with chilli jam as well.

I use the Aldi premium red salmon which is around $8, you could make a cheaper version by using pink salmon.  I estimate the cost of making these would be around $15 and if that feeds four adults, or two adults and two children, that's a good frugal meal containing omega oils and vegetables.

I hope you try them.

16 January 2017

Peaceful, quiet? Not all the time

I often tell you how peaceful it is here in our one lane, dead-end street. There's not much passing traffic except for the migrating birds that visit us on their way to who knows where. Apart from the work we do in our home to support the life we want to live, not much happens here. It's ordinary days lived by ordinary people. But last week all hell broke loose and we just sat back and observed.

Just beyond that picket fence is our usually quiet street.

After a few days of intermittent rain, on Monday night a tree came down at the end of our street (two doors down) and it took out the power pole supplying electricity to the street. Hanno woke up in the middle of the night and saw the Energex team set up out front trying to restore the power as quickly as they could. He got our torches out and when he came back to bed he told me what had happened. When I got up and looked outside, the men were working away in silence with shielded lights giving them light to work by but directed away from the houses. By sun up, the power pole was back up, trees cut down and the next couple of hours were taken up with the lines being rethreaded along the power poles and the connections to the houses checked. Our power pole suffered damage and we had to put in an insurance claim. We were told the power would be on again around 12 noon but ours didn't return until 2.30pm - just as the ice cream was starting to melt in the freezer, surely the measure of a prolonged power outage. It might even be the international standard. 😎

Fruit bread and butter pudding.

Then on Friday, Sunny came in to collect Jamie after work and asked why all the police were in the street. She had to drive past many armed police and thread through police cars to get to our place.  We had no idea what was happening but found out later from a neighbour that there had been a big drug raid, lead by the SWAT team, in a house a few doors down.  Gulp. 

A family meal. You can always tell where I'm sitting. It's where the big cup of black tea is.

All the while we continued doing our daily chores and apart from living without power for 14 hours and knowing these things were happening around us, we were not alarmed by the outside world moving closer to us in our street. We're in our haven here and we feel safe.

I've been knitting a fair bit and I'm pleased to have finished my year's worth of dishcloth knitting. I started another shawl after the dishcloths and that's progressing well. I'll be doing a knitting post very soon so I'll save the details for that. I've baked, cooked, watered plants, and sat awhile in the garden in the early morning and thought about our new season garden that we will plant in March.  It's not far away so I'd best start thinking about the seeds I want to plant. They need to be ready to go in the ground in eight weeks.

When I have some spare time I do an hour or two on my family history.  Cupboards have been cleaned out, the fridge tidied, decluttering is in full swing (again), we've been teaching ourselves how to groom Gracie, I've been sewing, mending and organising my sewing room. The morning chores start with the bed being made and the kitchen tidied and the hours progress slowly from there. Our main meal is eaten at lunch time and a nap taken is after lunch. We have the pleasure of Jamie's company until next week. He's been such a help to us and he makes us laugh. When he goes back to school in a couple of weeks time, I'm going to do a few more cupboards so we'll go into the year with most of our cupboards clean and organised.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And life goes on.

13 January 2017

Weekend reading

Here she is again - Gracie, a never-ending source of smiles and silliness. I was winding knitting cotton on my swift during the week and she was captivated by the spinning. In the photo here she's watching the cotton spin, she didn't bark or jump around, she just sat there, staring. 

It's been a busy week here, made a bit more difficult by the heat and humidity of mid-summer. I'm looking forward to the end of it and the cooler temperatures of autumn.  I hope that wherever you are you aren't suffering with your local weather.  Thanks for your visits this week.  I'll see you again soon.

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12 January 2017

Cooking with leftovers - Christmas ham frittata

I did a similar recipe in December but I'm posting this one today because I want to show how I dealt with our leftover Christmas ham, and it just so happens to be another baked frittata. A frittata is like an omelette that you can cook either on the stove top in a frying pan or in a baking tray in the oven. Either way, frittata is a great addition to your cooking from scratch repertoire because they're nutritious, easy and quick to make and they're extremely versatile. Generally they're a cheap option too and they become even more frugal when you use the vegetables you need to use up that day and eggs from your backyard. Frittatas may be eaten hot or cold, I prefer a cold slice, and are a great addition to the lunchbox or when travelling on the road, if they can be kept cold of a hot day. It's easy to adjust this recipe to make a vegetarian version and we often have it with vegetables only.

You can make a nice short crust pastry to hold the frittata mix or you could use three or four sheets of frozen filo pastry but it works really well with no pastry so that is usually how I cook it. You just have to make sure you grease the baking tray well or cover it completely with baking paper.

The ham we had this year was the best ham we've had for a long time. We enjoyed it with our family for Christmas day lunch, and over the following week as a ham and egg breakfast, ham and egg sandwiches, ham, tomatoes and potato salad, ham and cheesy pasta. Gracie had a couple of ham meals and the chickens enjoyed the skin. It was well used, that ham.

But when it got down to where I could see the bone, I cut off all the ham I could and left just the bone and gristly bits. That was wrapped in a couple of freezer bags and is now in the freezer to make soup later in the year.

 Leftovers Frittata 

This is the basic recipe for all my frittatas:
  • 8 or 9 eggs, beaten (nine if you have a couple of small eggs)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
  • 250ml (one cup) cream
  • crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper
Once you have the basic "custard", you add whatever you have in the fridge that you think your family will enjoy.  It goes well with most vegetables, I always include onion and garlic and often use capsicum, peppers, chilli or zucchini. I've also used baked pumpkin, eggplant, leeks, peas, herbs and asparagus. If you want to stretch the meal or have meat eaters who aren't impressed with a frittata, add sliced cooked potato and mushrooms. They add a lot of substance to it.

Here is the step-by-step process in photos:

Add ham, red onions, green onions, salt, pepper and herbs to pan, or whatever vegetables and seasonings you want to add. Cook until the vegetables are translucent - about 10 minutes on medium heat.
Break the eggs into a large bowl, beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are mixed together, add a cup of cream and cheese and mix in. I add the garlic to the eggs too instead of to the frying pan. I think it cooks better in the eggs.

Pour the egg mix into a greased and lined baking tray, add cooked potatoes, vegetables and ham/bacon/chicken and stir gently into the eggs.

Place in the oven at around 170C and bake until the top is golden but still a bit wobbly. Over cooking eggs will make them rubbery. It's much better to slightly under-cook them because they continue cooking in the tray for a little while after you remove them from the oven.

How did you go with your Christmas leftovers?  Did you manage to use them all without wasting anything?

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