Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin and Roasted Capsicum Soup

Hello Dear Reader,

We only have 2 more days until we leave for our Canadian/Alaskan trip, so I am in the process of making sure all perishable foods are used up. Last Saturday we did a smallish grocery shop, only buying what we would need for the week ahead plus a few specials on pantry items. As most readers would know by now, I hate waste of any sort and try to use everything up in a timely manner. I also don't stockpile or buy more than what I can use in a week, this reduced the chance of waste, dramatically. The reasons I don't stockpile or buy in bulk can be read here. It is a system that works for us, it's not for everyone as everyones circumstances are different.

Any way, that is a long way of saying, holy cow, this is an amazing soup. I had 3 beautiful red capsicums and some pumpkin that needed using up before we go away, so I thought a nice soup could be made using these lovely ingredients. I added chilli flakes, cumin, a red onion and some garlic for extra flavour and I used a litre of vegetable stock that I already had in the pantry, from a while ago. Simple, everyday ingredients turned this vegetable soup into a deliciously sweet, spicy and deeply flavoured soup. I also roasted all the veggies to boost the flavours tremendously.

Ingredients for Spicy Roasted Pumpkin and Roasted Capsicum Soup. clockwise from top right-
1 teaspoon chilli flakes, 500 grams of pumpkin, cut into chunks, 1 red onion, quartered, 2 garlic cloves, peeled, 500 grams of red capsicum, de-seeded and quartered, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 litre of vegetable stock and 2 tablespoons of oil, a small handful of coriander, chopped and a 1/4 cup of cream (not pictured)

Preheat oven to 200 C and prepare an oven tray with non stick paper. Throw all the ingredients into a bowl, sprinkle over the spices and 2 tablespoons of oil (I use rice bran oil for everything)

Toss to coat in oil and spice mix

Spread out spicy veggies in a single layer, onto the prepared oven tray

Bake for 30 minutes at 200 C or until soft and well roasted

Put roasted veggies into a large saucepan, pour over the veggie stock, bring to a gentle boil, pop a lid on, turn heat down to low and let bubble away for 20 minutes 

Blitz until smooth and silky. If you wish, you could freeze the soup at this point

Then add the 1/4 cup of cream and blitz again

Sprinkle over chopped coriander or herb of choice. Chives or parsley would work well also

We had this soup for lunch yesterday, with toast and butter, and it will be eaten for delicious warming lunches over the next day or so, just perfect for a cold winters day.

Do you make a "whatever is in the crisper draw, soup" what has been your favourite?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Corn, Bacon and Potato Chowder

Hello Dear Reader,

I adore sweet creamed corn, it evokes lovely childhood memories of having it on hot buttered toast for lunch or dinner during the cold winters in Gympie. We often had an "On toast" dinner on a Friday or Sunday night, with Oops, Alphabet Spaghetti or Creamed Corn to choose from. I don't even know if Oops is still around, it was just tiny, hoop shaped pasta in a tomato sauce, nothing flash, but we loved it. Not more than creamed corn though, the creamed corn was so lovely, sweet, soft and comforting. Life was full of simpler choices back then.

That is probably why I love this chowder so much. It is a doodle to make with very few ingredients. It makes plenty for 4 hungry people with maybe a couple of bowls left over for a lovely lunch the next day. The original recipe comes from my darling sister, she used to make it when she first moved out of home, as it was an inexpensive dish to make, it was filling and of course delicious. She taught it to me many, many moons ago and I can remember it being one of the first soups I ever made for lovely Hubby when we first started dating (over 30 years ago). This is the original recipe written by my sister, all those years ago. I have changed it slightly over the years but it is still pretty close to the original.

The secret to making the chowder thick and creamy is to gently squish the soft cubes of cooked potato against the side of the pot, breaking up the potato cubes slightly, while still having chunks of potato throughout this gorgeously, comforting chowder.

Ingredients for Corn, Bacon and Potato Chowder, clockwise from top left-
500 grams of potatoes, peeled and cubed, 2 cups of chicken stock (I use Massel stock cubes), 2 cups full cream milk, 2 large cans of creamed corn, 1 cup of corn kernels (I use frozen), 1 to 2 onions, finely diced, 1 to 2 spring onions, finely chopped and 3 rashers of bacon, chopped

Chop the bacon and finely dice the onion

Sauté bacon and onion in a large heavy based saucepan on medium heat with a little oil, until the onion is translucent and the bacon is golden

Add the cubed potato, corn kernels and chicken stock to the saucepan, bring to a gently boil, pop the lid on, turn heat down and let cook away for 20 minutes or until the potato is soft

Now add the 2 cans of creamed corn and the milk. Season with salt and pepper and then let blip away on lowish heat for 10 minutes. Don't forget to gently squish the cubes of potato against the side of the pot, this will thicken the chowder

Garnish with finely chopped spring onion

What food evokes lovely simple childhood memories for you?

Have a lovely day.

One Year Ago-Smoked Salmon Pasta

Monday, 24 July 2017

A Stitch In Time

Hello Dear Reader,

It has been a while since this bookshelf has been dusted

I am a creature of habit, not minding if I do the same sorts of jobs, day in, day out. I am not talking about my paid employment, I mean, what I do in and around my home, everyday. I feel all those little jobs enrich, not only my life, but the quality of life of my immediate and extended family. Cleaning, washing, sewing, cooking, baking and some gardening, when I have the time, are what keep my home humming along, without too many hiccups. One of my favourite, old fashioned sayings, is "A stitch in time, saves nine" it is, for me at least, so very true. To me, it simply means to keep on top of things and not letting jobs, big or small, to get out of hand.

As you can see the pantry need a good sort out and tidy

I have a cleaning schedule, which probably seems a bit rigid to some, but it works for me. I know that by keeping to the cleaning schedule, means that at the end of the 2 week cycle, my home is kinda clean and somewhat tidy. Don't get me wrong, my home is far from perfect, I live with 2 ordinary blokes, who aren't slobs but aren't all that fussy either. As long as the majority of the house is tidy and clean I can overlook some shabby areas. The lounge has slowly transformed into a real man cave, with fishing magazines galore and fishing gear (reels, line, lures and the like) often ending up next to the lounges ready to be tinkered with, while they watch TV at night. Boys and their toys!

The Man Cave, this is tame to what it sometimes looks like

I could be stressed out by this mess or I could just overlook it and carry on, I have chosen to go with the latter, as we all have to live in the house and as long as, eventually, the mess is cleared up, I am okay with it. Once upon a time that would not have been the case and I couldn't relax if there was a mess, but age has chilled me a bit and I now know it is not the end of the world not have a perfect house, all the time.

These blocks, in the sewing room, will eventually become a quilt for my darling little Grandniece's 4th birthday

This week, before we leave for our holiday on Friday, I want to tackle a few areas of the house that have become untidy and cluttered. I have written up jobs to do everyday, so that I don't become overwhelmed with it all. We have a few appointments to attend this week but mostly I will be at home tackling that list. Todays list is probably a bit too long, but I really wanted to make a dent in all the jobs that keep swirling through my brain. Wish me luck

How do you tackle the housework? Do you have a system that works for you?

Have a lovely Monday

Sunday, 23 July 2017

What's Growing in my Garden in July

Hello Dear Reader,

Sweet Cherry Peppers, I will pickle these, using My Mums Pickling Vinegar recipe

It has been a while since I last posted about what is growing in my garden, in fact the last post I did about this subject was way back in April, this is mainly because, not a lot is going on. I seem to have periods of time when I am always out there, everyday, watering, tidying or potting things on and then, during the colder months, I just lose my passion for growing things and just barely manage to keep things alive, like right now. With shorter days, by the time I think to go outside and do a few things the sun is starting to set, with the cooler night air coming in, pottering in the garden is the last thing I feel like doing.

I have four lovely little Pomegranates on our tree at the moment, this is what last years crop looked like

We had some really strong winds here, last Tuesday, and it blew over three of the larger fruit trees I have at the side of the house. Because they are getting quite tall and top heavy, I guess the wind just tossed them over.  They are all looking a bit sad as I really haven't been keeping the water up to them and the Panama Berry is looking very spindly, I will have to google it and find out when the right time is to prune it back. The other fruit trees I have growing are a Japoticaba, a Grumichama and Lychee 

Our Veggie Pod has just exploded with wonderful Perennial Coriander, Bok Choy, Choy Sum, Mustard Green and Surinam Spinach, thriving in the rich soil, the veggie pod has a wicking system so the soil is always nice and moist. We dug out and replaced the potting mix about 3 months ago, when I did this, I potted out heaps of Perennial Coriander plants to give away and replanted 4 of them, repositioned the surinam spinach and scattered some asian greens seeds around, what a difference healthy soil makes.

Every now and then, a plant of some sort will just come up by itself, usually in the gravel, next to the paths, which, I think would be the most infertile ground a plant could grow in, I just leave the plant to it, to see what happens. At the moment there is a really healthy Red Paw Paw tree growing in the gravel next to the shed (I really have to move it soon) and many succulents that have self sown as well. I also have a rogue strawberry plant that has come up in the veggie garden, I am just ignoring it because, sure as eggs, the moment I start fussing over it, it will turn up its toes. The other plant that has self sown is a tomato plant, it is so healthy and again I am sure if I intervene it will not go well. 

The rogue Red Paw Paw tree, I will have to move it soon

The rogue strawberry plant, it just came up from nowhere 

I am pretty sure this is a Bellino tomato bush, which I have grown before, again, I probably should dig it out and pot it on

I do have some success with certain plants, like the hardy rosemary bush which just keeps giving, the pineapple plants I grew from bought pineapple tops, our amazing passionfruit vine that is so vigorous and gives us about 3 or 4 super full and sweet passionfruit a day, the comfrey which is so lovely and healthy, my absolute favourite tree, the lemon myrtle tree is thriving and the Red Paw Paw tree in the veggie garden has been giving us some beautiful fruit just lately. So I do have some successes. 

My prolific Rosemary bush

Healthy Pineapples, all in a row

The passionfruit vine covers two sides of the verandah

The leaves on this side are starting to brown and fall off

The plant on the left is a Fiddle Leaf Fig tree. I bought a tiny seedling back with me from when we stayed at Runaway to Maleny for our 29th Wedding anniversary last year. You can see in the photo below, they had these lovely trees as indoor plants and there were little tiny baby plants that had come up in the pots. So I very gently (and very cheekily) dug out two, only one survived and now look at it, almost one year on.

A while ago I started a little experiment to see if I could grow an avocado tree from seed, below is how it started off and also what it looks like now, again it would probably more healthy if I potted it on and gave it some more water.

Here is the method I used

And what the little tree looked like yesterday. I had to spray it with white oil a while ago as it was being attacked by aphids, grrr! I seem to get every bug and disease under the sun in my garden.

So thats an update on what is and what isn't happening in my garden, how is you garden growing at the moment?

Have a lovely Sunday

Saturday, 22 July 2017

What we bought, spent and ate this week

Hello Dear Reader,

I have taken some photos of what was in the Hello Fresh Box, I have to admit, I was a little excited opening the box as I really didn't know what to expect. Every fresh veggie, cheese, herb and some pantry items are included that you need to make the dish, there are some pantry items like eggs, flour and milk that obviously aren't included, but everything else is. Even tiny containers of Dijon mustard and just the right amount of cheese/red lentil/stock-cubes/curry powder ect that you need to complete the dish. They also include beautifully printed recipe cards with step by step instructions, so even someone who doesn't cook can replicate the recipe. As I said yesterday I only ordered one of these groceries/meal boxes as I was curious and I had a $30 off voucher, but I won't be ordering any more, I just don't feel it is value for money at $60 for 3 dinners for 2 people.

When I made the menu and shopping list, last Friday, I just included the 3 x veggie meals I knew would be coming from Hello Fresh but I didn't know exactly what would be in the box until it arrived. We did enjoy the two recipes from the box and I am still to make the Beetroot and Feta Tart I planned to make on Thursday, our son came down with a nasty chesty cold so I made a Chicken soup instead, I will make the tart one day next week.
What we bought
The box of groceries from Hello Fresh arrived at 2.43am in the cold dark morning, I guess they deliver then while it is really cold to preserve the fresh veggies and herbs. They send you a text with a photo of the box at your front door, that is how I know what time it arrived

As you can see the handy dandy insulation bag (Top green and white folded bag) was just folded and put next to the groceries, I would have thought it was best to put the groceries in the bag

The bag of herbs, ginger, garlic and chilli

Veggies and a lime

More veggies and pantry items

The cold items-filo pastry, cheeses, mayo and Dijon mustard

More veggies and pine nuts from the Hello Fresh box

Shopping from Aldi

Just one item from Coles

Shopping from Northside Discount Fruit Barn

Chicken thigh fillets and frozen pork mince from Marjax meats

What we spent
Hello Fresh Box-$29.95, I had a discount voucher for $30 so the box would normally be $59.95
Coles-$2.00 + $33.77 for items picked up on Thursday, not pictured (white choc chips and cranberries for the Biscuits I made to take to work yesterday and ingredients for a big pot of lovely Chicken soup)
Northside Discount Fruit Barn-$49.74
Marx Meats-$12.40

TOTAL-$188.46-that's a bigger week...Boo
What we ate

Sunday-Cheesy Carrot and Zucchini Fritters and a green salad

Steamed Cucumbers with Pork and Ginger, steamed basmati rice and asian greens

Tuesday-Spicy Carrot and Coconut Dahl with steamed Basmati rice and warm Chapati

Wednesday-Tempura Whiting with steamed basmati rice and asian greens

Thursday and Friday-Chicken Soup with warm buttered toast

So, the grocery/complete meal box isn't for us, but that is okay, I was just curious and we did have a couple of really delicious meals from it. I will post the Beetroot and Feta tart when I make it.

Over to you, have you ever tried one of these meal boxes? What did you think of them?

Have a lovely Saturday