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?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Recipe: Carrot and vegetable soup with ginger

Recently I had a craving for carrot soup. I'm not exactly sure why that came to mind, but when writing out the weekly meal plan I remembered that I had some carrots that needed to be used and a sweet potato that wasn't looking as lovely as it could. When doing the grocery shopping, pumpkin was on sale, and so I decided that a carrot and other orange-vegetable soup would be delicious.
I made it up as I went along but it turned out rather nicely - it's pretty hard to mess up soup! The ginger added a nice kick. Mr Fork thought I was a bit heavy on the seasonings, but I personally enjoyed it as is. It's the sort of thing you can play with and tweak to your own tastes, and was delicious served with some fresh out of the oven ciabatta bread on the side.

Carrot and vegetable soup with ginger

  • 1 onion, diced
  • generous knob of ginger, finely sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, skin on, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 400g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon each cumin, turmeric and curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put a generous lug of olive oil into a saucepan and add onion. Sauté until softened.
  2. Combine carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, ginger, spices and stock with the onion. Bring the mix to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer it all until the vegetables are soft (about 15 minutes).
  3. Blend to your desired consistency.
  4. Return to the heat and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Serve with chopped coriander, parsley or shallots.
  • I was shelling some for Jimmy, so I also added some edamame beans to my bowl before serving. They sunk to the bottom so you can't see them in any photos, but I liked them in the soup, and they added some texture.
  • The seasoning is very versatile. Add more or less, or change it up to suit your tastes. I think it would be good adding some chilli in as well, but my children aren't good with too much spice yet.
  • It was particularly good with some fresh bread on the side to help wipe the bowl clean at the end.
  • I'm a big believer in not having food go to waste, so the next night, I added the soup leftovers to a creamy sauce I was making for a macaroni pasta bake. Excuse the terrible lighting, but it turned out beautifully.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What's in my kitchen, August 2016

Although our usual hostess Maureen is not formally hosting the IMK event while she focuses on getting well, I'm still putting up a (late) post. I know that I've let my blog post frequency slip of late, but reading (and writing my own) kitchen posts really is something that I look forward to each month. It seems that the year is just flying by. Where did July go? How is it August already? With that said though, bring on Spring! If I'm honest, the weather in Brisbane has been unseasonably warm for Winter so it's almost as though Spring is here. Some of my colleagues from Melbourne were up recently and they were happily walking around in short sleeves and soaking up the sun while I was shivering in tights and a trench coat. It's what you're used to I guess!

The 'cold' weather has been playing havoc with my sourdoughs lately (hence the lack of posting results online) but I am discovering other things that I can ferment...

In my kitchen is...

The beginnings of kombucha and a weird looking scoby. I recently attended a food fermentation workshop and came away inspired to have a go at making my own kombucha. While I'm a little grossed out at the way scobys look, I can't deny that I like to drink the results, and so I decided to give it a go. The workshop included a bottle of kombucha to take home, so I drank most of it and then used the last of it to start a scoby off. The first picture was taken a few days after I made up the jar of sweet tea, and the second picture is perhaps two weeks later. Probably could have given the jar a clean before I took the photos though...

I have since bottled my first batch, and the second is well on it's way to being ready. I still think it looks horrid, but I can get past that. Mr Fork despairs that I'm taking up significant kitchen bench space with all of my food projects, but I think home made deliciousness is worth it! 
In my kitchen is...

A new dishwasher. Our old one finally just gave up. We couldn't repair it anymore and all of the tweaks and love that Mr Fork tried to give it didn't work either. I think it had a good run - it was in the house when we bought it, and I'd estimate it's age at about 12 years, so that's pretty good for something used with frightening regularity (frightening because we go through an astounding amount of dishes here).

We procrastinated about replacing it as I wasn't sure I really wanted another one, but I'm happy to give up having to hand wash everything (see previous frightening amount of dishes comment), and it's quite exciting to have a new appliance. I'd thought that dishwashers were a standard size, but turns out there are small variations. This one was a mm or so too small for our existing space, but Mr Fork was able to take off part of the top cabinetry to make it fit. It's only obvious from the angle that I've taken this picture from, otherwise you don't see the gap.
In my kitchen is...

Cashew and dill cheese. I'm always excited to support local companies, and Peace Love and Vegetables from Byron Bay tick loads of boxes for me with their ethos, products and general way of doing business sustainably.

I haven't tried many commercial non-dairy cheeses, but this is so dangerously more-ish. It was good as a dip with vegetables, spread on a sandwich and even eaten by the spoonful. It was creamy and just really, really good. It wasn't cheap, so it's not something that I'd have very often, but for a treat and an occasional luxury, it's definitely something I'd get again.
In my kitchen is...

Again from the Peace Love and Vegetables company is a jar of sauerkraut. It was another attendee bonus from the fermentation workshop, and I've been adding it to just about everything in small amounts. It's a mild tasting kraut, and I've not found much that it doesn't go with. It's even quite nice and not too overpowering on it's own. When I've finished this - quite large - jar I'm well convinced that I'd have great fun mashing cabbage and salt about to make my own sauerkraut too. Stay tuned for that adventure :)
In my kitchen is...

A Costco find, a large box of vegan felafel sausages. While it's quite odd to me to have felafel in anything but ball form, I can't deny that it's super handy to have this sort of product on hand. One of the first things that I do after a Costco shop is to divide the large packages into normal portions. These sausages are now packaged in pairs in the freezer. I find them quite tasty - not too dry and certainly flavourful.

They were great for a quick meal of hotdogs one night. Mr Fork had meat dogs, and we made a variety of sides to share - sliced mushrooms fried up, sliced onions just on the cusp of being burnt (Mr Fork's favourite way of eating them), cheese, sauerkraut, tomato sauce, mustard. Everything was put in the middle of the table so that we could all make hot dogs to suit own personal tastes. Dinner win all around!

There is no official link up for the In My Kitchen this month, so I'm just going to throw it out there to all... what's going on in your kitchen this month?

Monday, August 1, 2016

How does your garden grow, August 2016

It's been awhile since a garden update, so one is long overdue I'm sure. Although it is still technically winter, my garden is very confused this season. Brisbane winter has ranged from the occasional single digit temperature up to almost 30 degrees, so it's no wonder my garden doesn't know what it's doing. Despite the confusion, there is a range of things happily growing away.

I've got some seriously prolific parsley happening (actually it's still the same plant from a year ago!). No matter how much I use, it just seems to keep on growing. The plants have huge stems and are spreading across almost half a garden bed. I keep thinking about cutting it back, but it's not woody, and it's pretty healthy looking, so I'll just continue eating parsley with everything! Perhaps another batch of parsley pesto is on the cards.

My in laws gifted me a couple of their hot chillies after I admired them at family dinner one time. I saved some seeds and planted them, and this hardy plant was the result. The chillies are lovely and spicy, and as you can see from the picture, despite being fenced off, the chickens also like them, and find a way to eat all the leaves they can reach. This plant is a great producer and I've been so time poor lately that I haven't been using all the fruit and sadly some has been left to dry on the bush. Probably it will self seed and I'll be overrun with chillies soon, which won't be a bad thing I'm sure!

Coriander shoots from seeds I'd saved from a particularly tasty plant have come up. They're looking lovely and healthy, and I've been sure to plant these far enough from the fence that they're definitely out of the chicken's reach. I love coriander on everything so I'll be pleased to have a source of it close by and on demand.

My eggplants continue to flower away. They're such lovely little flowers. I haven't had much fruit from the plants this year; I'm unsure if they're just not loved enough, or perhaps the weather has had a hand in it. I'm hoping these flowers will turn to fruit though, even though the weather is heating up significantly.

I threw a few bok choi seeds that I'd saved from last year's plants into the garden and had quite a few of them take. I snip the leaves as I need them, similar to lettuce, but it seems that something else in the garden is also a fan!

My little rough leaf pineapple plant looks to be sprouting a new pineapple. At the rate they grow, this one might be ready by Christmas. I used to have a lovely collection of pineapple plants, but the chickens got to all but this one, probably because it's tucked safely into a pot. Sometimes, laziness does pay off then (that, and those leaves are deadly and I decided it was happy where it was and I didn't need to unnecessarily cut my hands to shreds for no good reason).

My lime tree is covered in blossoms, new leaf growth, and what I suspect might be scale with those yellow leaves. Of all my citrus, the lime is the happiest, and is the only one that has ever given me any fruit. Perhaps my soil isn't suited for fruit trees in that location, but I remain ever hopeful.

My geranium has lots of little flower buds appearing. The trick will be convincing my children to let them bloom on the plant instead of plucking them at the first hint of colour as they're sure that mama needs flowers all the time.

Still to do:

  • I need to pay some more attention to my compost heap and start preparing my garden beds for the change in season.
  • I have grand plans to move around some of the front garden to make a feature section and tidy up the path. I keep putting it off as it's quite labour intensive and I can't decide exactly how I want it to end up yet though.
  • I have some lovely heirloom tomato seeds I've been gifted so I'll have to start thinking about when and where to plant those beauties.
How does your garden grow lately? Is it confused like mine, or producing as expected? Any tips for getting rid of citrus scale naturally?


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