Thursday, November 17, 2016

How does your garden grow, November 2016

This season I've taken a different approach to my kitchen garden. Instead of planting things out in neat rows and sections, I've decided on more of a laissez-faire strategy. By that, I mean that I'm letting seeds fall where they may. I'm letting things from the compost grow and revelling in the mystery of what comes up. Yes, it's a bit of a lazy approach, but it seems to be working pretty well.

I've got a new crop of chillies fruiting. The original plant was grown from a chilli Mr Fork's father gave me. They've got a great amount of heat, so I love these chillies. The plant is a prolific producer, so I've always got a well stocked freezer supply too. The kids don't tolerate heat as well as their parents do, so spiciness is always something we add at the end of the cooking process to individual portions. It doesn't taste as good in my mind as cooking the heat in, but what can you do? I hope to gradually build their tolerance up so we don't have to prepare quite so many separate meals. You can also see a small section of my chicken proof fence.
Part of my natural approach includes letting my plants with good properties go to seed so that I can save them for later planting (and let some fall where they may as well!). Coriander flowers are so pretty. I have this herb constantly growing as the Queensland heat makes them go to seed so quickly. I like the contrast of white coriander blossoms with purple eggplant flowers.
Speaking of eggplants, my sad plant has perked up with the recent rainy weather. I've got a bumper crop of eggplants. I'm never quite sure when the ideal time to pick them is, but they're a welcome addition to my cooking - such a versatile ingredient.
The weather has made my basil plant very happy. It's started to grow at a very rapid rate and keeps me busy pinching off the flowers so it doesn't go to seed.
I *think* this is some sort of purple basil. Mr Fork's aunt gave me a cutting. I thought I'd killed it but it seems to have come back with a vengeance. We use the leaves when we are making Vietnamese rice paper rolls. I'm not sure what else people use it in, but apparently it's quite hard to grow. It definitely smells and tastes delicious. You can also see my clumping sweet potato in the background. I grow it not for the tubers, but for the leaves which are great in stir fries and similar.
I found a few organic corn seeds left from last year so popped them in garden bed too. They're about six inches high now and looking very happy. There's also some tomato seedlings coming up, I think some lettuce seedlings, and I admit I have no idea at all yet what that round leafed plant in the top left corner underneath the corn is.
The rough leafed pineapple I planted from a leftover top some years ago is fruiting again. I'm quite glad as the chickens ate all the other pineapples I had planted in the garden so this is the last one left. It probably only survived because it was in a pot and it has the most delicious fruit, so I'm looking forward to that, and also having a second top to plant out too. Waste not, want not!
Finally, here are Vanessa and Jemima, greedily eyeing my vegetable patch. Chickens are much messier and destructive than I ever imagined, but they're so useful. They eat my scraps and leftover plants, they do fabulous things for the lawn and give me a great source of fertiliser. My family and neighbours are also grateful for their eggs as well. While not technically in my edible garden, Mr Fork has recently put lots of effort into the lawn and it's lovely to see it looking so lush.
How is your garden growing lately? I'd love to hear tips about when to harvest the perfect eggplant.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Recipe: Coconut Scones

It's hard to find a good scone. Everyone has their own variations and favourite recipe but I think what really makes a scone good is the fluffiness and the freshness. I'm always disappointed by scones when I'm at a coffee shop or a high tea as they just never live up to my expectations - they're usually dry, dense or could serve equally well as a hockey puck. Not when I can whip something up at home, exactly to my taste, and have it fresh from the oven and served with exactly the right toppings (none of that horrible cream from a can the places I go to seem to love). 

Personally, I'm a big believer in some delicious jam with my scones, and perhaps if they're fresh from the oven, a bit of Nuttelex as well. For a truly decadent occasion, I might whip up some coconut cream, but it's not a must.

I baked these coconut scones to satisfy the cries of my smalls for cake and quite frankly, I really just wanted a cup of tea and a good scone. These delivered! I made them with coconut oil instead of butter, and I thought while I was coconutting them (can that be a verb?) I'd add some coconut flour too. I got a result that was light, flaky and perfect for afternoon tea. 

The mix would easily double, but we weren't having company and scones don't keep very well, so I was happy making a small batch.
Coconut Scones
Makes 6

Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup plain flour 
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used soy, but that's just what I had in the fridge, any non dairy milk would work)
Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC and grease your baking tray with a little coconut oil.
  2. Combine the flour and baking soda together in a decent sized bowl, and then add the coconut oil, rubbing it into the flour gently until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  3. Mix the sugar, baking powder and salt in, distributing evenly.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add in most of the milk (you may not need it all). With a light touch - I find a butter knife works perfectly - mix the milk into the dry ingredients until it forms a ball. If you need to add a little more milk to help everything combine, now is the time to do it.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, gently press the dough to about 3-4cm high. Use a floured glass or cutter to shape the scones. Place them onto the baking tray, making sure to position them with sides touching to help them rise nicely.
  6. Bake 12-15 minutes until they are done, then cool on a wire rack.
Best served immediately, we kept ours simple with some homemade raspberry jam. I was really impressed with how well the coconut oil did as a butter substitute, and the coconut flour added a small hint of coconut to the scones. They were delicious and perfect for afternoon tea. Most definitely they were approved by my smalls as well (although that may also be influenced by the late amounts of jam they smothered theirs in!). 
Do you have a favourite scone recipe?

Friday, October 7, 2016

In My Kitchen, October 2016

I said something in a previous post about time having gone so slowly, and yet so fast at the same time when pondering my daughter's birthday. The same rings true for months and here we are, well and truly into Spring (in the Southern hemisphere) and also, apparently the sign for shops to begin bringing Christmas decorations out! At the end of this month, my 'baby' boy will turn two. I still remember when I announced his birth, and it honestly doesn't feel that long ago at all. Time. It's a funny thing. Anyway, without further ado, here are some things in my kitchen. Lots of bought things actually, but bought with the intention of turning them into something else! (which I will do... when we get over birthday season, and being the house of sick, which does tend to make for lazy meals)...

In my kitchen is...

Chia seeds galore. 1.5kg of them actually, which is really a bit obscene, but at $14.89 for the bag at Costco I couldn't pass it up. I've been having them sprinkled over oats, in smoothies and adding them to my baking. My uncle recently told me that he ground up chia to use as a coating on meat, so I was thinking I might attempt something similar with some firm tofu slices.

In my kitchen is...

Another Costco find, Eco Organic Pasta. There are three flavours - Mung Bean fettuccini, Black Bean spaghetti and Soy Bean spaghetti. These were a bit pricey at $8.89 for the pack, but I couldn't really resist them either. When I walk past something that is vegan, and organic to boot, at shops that aren't always very vegan friendly, I like to support them in the hope they'll continue to source such things. I haven't tried any of them yet (did I mention we've been sick?) but I have grand plans, although I'm not really sure which sauces would best complement each pasta type.
In my kitchen is...

Some Hidden Orchard wines sent to me by Hardy's. They're a new(ish) range of wines blended with natural flavours and juices, which are meant to be refreshing and delicious chilled.
Now that the toddler is finally well on his way to weaning, I can indulge in wine a little more, so I started with the Ripe Raspberry & Rich Cassis bottle (the dark red one). First sip saw me hesitate a little as it was so rich but after I added ice it was much more drinkable. Honestly, I'm a little weirded out adding ice or serving a red wine chilled but it made it much better (it tastes like Ribena in wine form actually).
Our guests preferred the Pink and Zesty White Grapefruit wine but it was a bit sweet for me straight out of the bottle. Diluted with soda water was much better.

I'm unsure if my tastebuds are out of commission from non-regular wine consumption or whether these wines are just so sweet and fruity, but I found them best mixed and diluted. I have yet to try to Peach, Mango, Passionfruit and Pineapple bottle, but it sounds awfully like something university-aged me would drink actually.

In my kitchen is...

Home made raspberry jam, although not made in my home unfortunately. This pot of delicious jam was gifted to me by a friend who had too much. It's a delightful mix of sweet and tart and perfect for eating by the spoonful (ahem). My kids like it with peanut butter between slices of fresh bread, but inspired by Kari's recent post about porridge toppings, I've been adding it, with chia seeds and some Mayver's dark roasted peanut butter to my oats, making a delicious bowl of peanut butter and jammy oat goodness.

I note my photo looks like there is a big glob of peanut butter inside the jar but insist that is just the bench showing through a gap in the jam and not due to double dipping!


In my kitchen is...

Dumplings. Lots and lots of dumplings. We go through phases of food in our house, and it has recently been the phase of dumplings. Which is handy because everyone in the household loves them, they're quick and easy to prepare (once made that is), and make a delicious meal.

My mother in law made me a batch of vegan dumplings which had been pre-steamed and I wasn't able to eat them at the time so I froze for later. It was a time poor night so I unearthed them from the freezer and pan fried those beauties in a little oil until they were the right combination of crispy and chewy. Served with a mix of soy sauce and red vinegar (and a bowl of edamame on the side for greens), everyone was happy. (Well, I should say that Mr Fork had made himself a separate batch of prawn dumplings as he insists on meat versions, but I neglected to photograph those).

Tell me, what's been happening in your kitchen lately? Any tips for using chia seeds? Ideas about how to best enjoy my bean pasta?

In my kitchen has a new host, Lizzy, of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things. I am linking in to her monthly IMK roundup.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

An update, and sourdough improvements

My last IMK post mentioned I was having some problem with my starter. Lorenzo still isn't back to his former glory, but he is producing loaves with a bit more lift now. Perhaps the warmer weather here in Australia is helping. I've been experimenting with using the fridge to rise the bread, and I'm getting some ok results. The first time I did it, I didn't realise that I should have shaped the loaves before popping them in the fridge, so they lost a bit of air when I pulled the bowl out and shaped. These loaves turned out a bit better - I used polenta on the outside which gave them a nice crunchy crust. I'm loving the sourdough experimentation and different techniques I pick up from various books and blogs.
One of those loaves came along on a weekend away with us. We rented a little holiday apartment with a kitchen up at Caloundra. It's not a long drive, but I find that travelling with kids is always best if I can minimise disruptions to their routine, and give them plenty of distractions. We had a concert (Lah-Lah's big live band for any parents in the know) to go to at 10am which is a bit of a witching hour for my toddler. With an early nap, I figured he'd be fine so we decided to stay up there and let him nap at the apartment first rather than driving up on the day to have him strung out and exhausted instead of grooving to the music!

Anyway, the kids loved it - the concert and the apartment. We stayed within walking distance to the beach. On one of our wanders we saw this pelican swimming along the boardwalk. I was sad to see that it had a fishing hook embedded in its throat and the line wrapped around it's neck. It was swimming near the fisherman along the boardwalk, hunting for little bait scraps and the fish they were trying to catch. I guess I know how it got that hook!
Travelling with children is also exhausting as it's not their own space so we were constantly entertaining them. Much coffee was consumed.


Ellie recently turned four. I can't really wrap my head around the fact that I have a child who is four. The years feel like they have just flown by... and yet gone so slowly too! She insisted that I make her cupcakes to take to daycare and share with her friends. I was not allowed to make my own cakes, they must be the Finding Dory mini cupcake mix that she had spied on the shelf at the store. Since it was her day, I capitulated, but in an act of defiance (and sympathy to the children with food allergies in her class) I used Nuttelex and apple puree instead of butter and eggs. By all reports they were a hit. I'm quite taken with the edible wafers included in the pack; apparently they are made with potato starch.
One of Ellie's favourite presents was this hula hoop. I admit we have all had a bit of fun with it actually, but she is getting very good at it (although watching her learn to hula was an absolute hoot!)
We came home from our mini getaway to find the hens and hounds overjoyed that we had returned. My garden, while dry, seems to have come along in leaps and bounds. I'm especially chuffed that this little nasturtium seed that I threw into a empty pot has suddenly leapt taller and sprouted several new sets of leaves (although something has been munching on one).
I love mini holidays, and every time we do one I promise myself they'll happen more often. Here's to getting away from things for awhile!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Mama, you have to share!

When I was pregnant with Jimmy, we had a book that we would read regularly to Ellie, called "Share". It was a story designed to teach children how to share, and it was done in a really lovely way, with scenarios that children could relate to (and boy can I relate to them now!). Just as an aside, but pre-children, never in my life would I have thought I'd have to measure and weigh out cereal to ensure peace and equality, now I do it without thinking.

Anyway, the lessons from the book have stuck and now the constant refrain around the house is, "... but mama, you have to share!" when I try to hide my nice things away from small children!

I was cleaning out my closet recently, and had set aside a pile of clothes that no longer fit the same. Ellie happened to spy an old pair of pyjamas that she liked. They were nice ones and there was nothing wrong with them so I told her I'd cut them down to her size for her.
Honestly, with my rudimentary sewing skills, by the time I was done unpicking hems, ripping out stitches and pinning it all back together, it would have been much faster to use the material and start again from scratch. I suppose that's not the point though is it! Essentially, I shortened the legs, and brought in the outside hems, trying to minimise the amount of re-work. It backfired a bit as I ended up having to fiddle around with adjusting the waist, but it worked out in the end.
Ellie is just chuffed with her bee pants. I reused everything, even the elastic and the drawstring (which I neglected to iron before rethreading because I was lazy). I even saved the portion of the legs I cut down to make scrunchies for her hair... are scrunchies still a thing these days?

I never thought I'd be sharing clothes with my not-quite-yet-four year old daughter, but I guess since I am that means a few things:
  • My taste in clothes is either immature, or hers is very mature
  • I am destined to be the family midget
Here is another example, where I went to check on her after her shower, and found that she'd requisitioned one of my shirts for her own oversized nightie. Apparently nothing is off limits in this house. When I questioned her, the only response was "But mama, you know I like Elmo. You have to share!"
Well...ok then. Teenage years are going to be fun!
 
Anyone have any tips for helping teach personal space and things?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

What's in my kitchen, September 2016

As has become my new usual, I am later than I wanted to be getting this post published. September is in general a very busy month for me, so I don't feel too terrible as I have been very busy with real life things and enjoying all my in-person interactions. I find that with two small children, I very rarely take any me-time without them in tow... when I'm not actively mothering, I am actively working and vice versa. Hence, when I get time to experience adult things, like dinners out, and uninterrupted conversations, I treasure the experience as it has become something a bit rare.

Anyway, September is the beginning of birthday season at chez Fork, starting early on in the month with my own! My birthday happened to fall on the same day as Father's day this year, so Mr Fork and I both lay in bed giving each other the side eye and asking, "Are you going to make me breakfast?". In the end, we both sighed and got up to make breakfast together. Teamwork!

In my kitchen is...

Edamame! Jimmy adores soybeans, and I adore it when he adores food, so I'm happy to sit there and shell them for him (heaven forbid he should have to do it himself!). We eat a lot of these as it's one green that he will eat every time, so I was very pleased to discover Costco stocked large bags of plain beans still in the shell in the frozen section. I keep a bag in the freezer and add these to whatever meal I feel needs extra greens. They also make a delicious snack just plain and on their own too.

In my kitchen is...

Kingsland greek style soy yoghurt. I saw this at the supermarket recently with a big NEW sticker. I'm unsure if it's a new product or simply a rebranding or a new recipe. I thought that I'd have this with porridge and berries, and even served to the side of some curries, but I have to admit the taste wasn't for me. Perhaps I'm simply too used to the taste of coconut yoghurt, but I found this overly bean-y and not at all what I was expecting, although the texture was amazing and extremely comparable to non-vegan greek yoghurt. I probably won't buy this again.

In my kitchen is...

Sourdough, but not as I know it. I don't know what is going on with Lorenzo lately. He has been very moody, and takes forever to perk up. I thought perhaps it was the cold weather getting him down, but now that the weather is warming again, I'm having more fails then I'm used to. While the starter is active, he isn't behaving as he used to. He bubbles but not giant bubbles with lots of activity anymore. It takes a long time for my dough to rise, and I'm finding my loaves to be not as reliable as I expect. Sometimes they work out ok, and other times, with the exact same steps, the dough is sloppy, fragile and fails to rise to the occasion (I cheat and call those loaves focaccia, but my failure grates on me).

Can any of my bread baking friends shed some light? The bowl below is one that I had to leave rise an extra 8 hours or so and while the dough finally got to a stage where I could make a window with it,   it wasn't very airy. Usually when I go to bake my dough has risen to the top of that bowl and wants to overflow. These loaves turned out a bit sad and dense and quite sour from the extended rise I think. Help!

In my kitchen is...

A cute little drying mat, apparently for drying fruit on. It is padded and covered with lovely cheerful apples. I saw it at Aldi and as it was marked down, I had to have it. Now I just need to teach Mr Fork and the small Forks to use it. They are in the habit of just putting wet things that don't fit on the draining board down on the benches, and as our bench is wood, it gets horrible water marks and stains.

In my kitchen is...

A Norwex kitchen cloth. I've always used cloth in the kitchen instead of paper towels and when my friend had a party recently, I couldn't resist getting this one (partly because of the glorious pomegranate colour). I really do like this cloth - it's got a lovely waffle-y pattern which makes it good at picking up crumbs from my table and benches, and it rinses out nicely as well. It's made of microfibre so it's good and absorbent for the inevitable small-people spills, but it also dries out fairly quickly too. My only gripe is the price, but it does it's job so well I think it'll work out decent on a cost-for-use basis.

In my kitchen is...

A bunch of birthday flowers, which are still blooming spectacularly over a week later. I love lilies (they've opened up now and smell amazing) and how beautiful are those cheery yellow ones?

In my kitchen is...

A terrible photo, but I had to rush to take it before small hands started to help themselves. My lovely family surprised me with vegan cupcakes and a tub of salted caramel coconut ice-cream for my birthday. It really was a surprise too, as I'd had no idea they gotten them and they'd had them all hidden away for a (delicious) after dinner surprise. 

Maureen of The Orgasmic Chef has been taking a break from hosting In My Kitchen, due to health issues, so I'm sending her some positive vibes for when she returns.


What's happening in your kitchen lately?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Spring has sprung!

Well hello Spring! I know the title is a bit of a cliché, but I do love a change in season, and I think Spring is one of my favourites!
Here are five things I'm looking forward to about this season:

  1. Waking up and coming home in daylight! No more short days, but glorious light filled hours! Of course, this means I'll probably have to cope with the kids waking up earlier and wanting to play later, but it's worth it.
  2. Spring means it's my birthday month. Not that I get a whole month of celebrations, but I do like birthdays. And cake. I love cake.
  3. Fruit varieties! I know it's not really such a big thing anymore with the imported varieties available, but by now I'm over the local winter fruits and really hanging out for some spring and summer varieties which are now THAT much closer!
  4. Plans! All the fabulous plans that are coming up. My family is entering birthday season, and as the kids get older they get more involved in it all, so we have all the fun of planning celebrations and of course, there will be cake (did I mention I love cake?!).
  5. Gardening. Í can't wait to change up what I have growing and start to plant out some new seeds and seedlings. I have big plans for the garden over the coming months.
What do you love about Spring?

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