Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas lunch and 2015 starts to wind down

Christmas has come and gone. To be honest, our house didn't feel very festive this year as we didn't have a tree set up. With Jimmy being a mobile destructor, it was much safer and less frustrating for me to avoid having to redecorate the tree every time he'd walk past and pull it down/everything off it. So we just didn't. It was bad enough having to do that at every low hanging tree we walked past while shopping! However, Christmas with children is always a joy, especially now Ellie is really starting to understand it. Both of the kids were utterly spoilt with gifts, and Mr Fork and I also had a few small packages to open - as it should be really.

For me, Christmas is all about the food anyway. I've eaten my body weight in stone fruit and I intend to continue while I can get them! Christmas lunch (which morphed into dinner too) was spent with family. Despite the heat there was a proper feast - plenty of turkey, chicken, ham and roast veggies. I brought along a vegan mushroom and lentil loaf, and my own jug of mushroom gravy, so I was well fed as by now everyone is kind enough to cook the vegetable separately. Here's my plate, with a felafel on the side in case I felt the need of it too. Surrounded by family, food and presents, it was a great day.
I thought with the holidays, I'd be able to write a bit more frequently but, life is busy! I find lately that I have been blogging much less than I would like... not through lack of content, but more through lack of time. I have decided that this is not necessarily a bad thing, as when I write now, it's because I want to, it's something I wanted to share so badly that I consciously made the time to sit down and publish it. I'm still out there blog stalking and reading but my own content may be a bit sporadic!

2015 has really been a great year. Sure, a year of sleep deprivation, but a year of watching my children grow and really start developing their own individuality. Jimmy has learned to walk and discovered solid food with a vengeance. Ellie is learning logic, and having conversations with her is a real delight as I'm never really sure just how she is going to respond.

I'm on holidays from work and it's been great to have uninterrupted time at home. We haven't done anything all that strenuous, but just being able to have a quick middle of the day nap while Mr Fork watches the children, or catch up on the pile of books and magazines I've been setting aside for later all through the year is a good thing.

With that in mind, I hope your 2015 ends with a bang (hopefully a lovely firework-y one for those who can stay up that late!!) and 2016 brings lots of good things. If I don't post again before year end, I'll see you all in the new year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mornings

Mornings are like...

Sweet milky breaths

Small arms with hidden strength

Homemade sourdough, slathered with nuttelex and vegemite

Coffee, brewed fresh and hot, steaming nicely

Triumphant hens clucking to herald fresh eggs

Early morning light

All before 6:30am!

****

What do your mornings look like?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Santa sack

Nearly two years ago, I posted about how I'd made Ellie's Santa sack.

I know that it's Jimmy's second Christmas this year, but I was in newborn sleep deprivation hell last year and didn't even think about his. In fact to be honest, I'm not sure I got him a present anyway, although quite frankly, sustaining him with milk two hourly round the clock was a pretty great gift I think!!!

Anyway, I finally got inspired and finished of Jimmy's sack last week. I bought the fabric from Spotlight (a pre printed Santa sack and 75cm of some contrasting Christmas fabric) and followed the instructions from here. It's about the size of a pillowcase, plenty of room for whatever Santa might deliver (which in Jimmy's case this year, I strongly suspect will be daycare necessities and maybe a new toothbrush)...
I think it turned out pretty well. Sure, I got distracted talking to the kids and had to unpick a few seams, and while I was re-sewing I wondered (as I always do when my sewing projects go awry) why I didn't just buy the silly thing. In the end though, I'm glad I persevered. 

How's your Christmas preparations going?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

In My Kitchen, December 2015

Cue shocked exclamations about how it's December already. But seriously, how is it December already? Summer has just started and if it continues on the way it's begun, it's going to be a long, hot season. Probably an expensive one too as we will be getting heavy use out of the air conditioning and blow up pool. I suppose that seems odd for my Northern hemisphere friends to think of a festive season with scorching heat. One of these days, I will experience a white Christmas. It's definitely on my bucket list! Perhaps when the kids are older and can appreciate it more...

In my kitchen is...

A selection of Nestar and Miss Sweetie vegan chocolates I won from a competition on veganopolous. I'm super pleased to discover an Australian based (in Melbourne) chocolatier that likes to source locally where possible. They make a mix of fruity and nutty chocolates (not pictured here is the ginger version, which was in no fit state to be photographed as it was ripped open for consumption immediately!). Everything I've tried so far has been delicious - the perfect blend of filling and chocolate. Thanks for introducing me to this fabulous brand Faye! I think a few packets will be finding their way into Christmas stockings in a few weeks... both other people's, and my own...

In my kitchen is...

Minimal ingredient vegan gravy, mainly to make a dinner of potato gems seem less 'thrown together' and more 'I put some actual effort in'. I love gravy. I'll be taking a modified mushroom version of this to Christmas lunch with the family, along with some kind of loaf as usual, to cater for the vegans and "picky eaters" as my family calls them (aka gluten free).

In my kitchen is...

Cuttings! In the small bottle there are some mushroom plants that I've been carefully nurturing. They started as just bare sticks and have now grown leaves and small roots. These are a fabulous plant - growing low to the ground and clumping to make a nice ground cover, the leaves smell and taste faintly of mushrooms. You can eat the leaves and stems as is in salad, or cooked in a stir fry.  This is my sole stock of the plant at the moment as my naughty chickens breached the protective fence around a garden bed and demolished an entire crop of corn, tomato, pumpkin and other edibles.

I also have a small sweet potato that those same naughty chickens unearthed from the sweet potato patch, but I managed to save it before it was consumed. It seemed silly to eat such a small specimen especially as it was a bit pecked, so I thought it would be a nice science experiment for Ellie to see it grow. We impaled it on some toothpicks and left it to sit in an ex-candle jar with water. It's now got some tiny little roots and some healthy looking leaves. She was quite impressed but now seems to have lost interest as it isn't really a speedy grower. The impatience of toddlers!

When I chicken proof my garden bed again, these will all be off into the outside again but for now they decorate my window sill.

In my kitchen is...

Treats for those undeserving chickens. With the weather so hot lately, I've taken up my old tradition of making icy treats for the animals which I distribute for them before I leave for work in the mornings. For the chickens, I put small pieces of vegetable scraps in an old container, top up with water and leave in the freezer overnight. They get all the fun of pecking frozen treats out of the ice cube the next morning. Yay for them! This ice block (seen from the side, below) has canned corn in it as I'd opened it to use half but forgot about the rest of it until making chicken treats.
The puppies get a similar block, sometimes I just use plain water and add a huge ice block to their water bowl, other times I'll freeze some of their dog biscuits into the middle (although where vegetables sink, the dog biscuits float so the sneaky puppies just wait for the cube to melt enough and then snaffle their treats from the top).

In my kitchen is...

Dried sourdough starter from Lorenzo, son of Priscilla. I have been making extra starter every time I make bread, drying and bagging it all up ready for this December post. Mr Fork is just about over the little plates of starter I have been spreading all around the kitchen. I'm going to restrict postage to within Australia only (sorry!), but I have a few packets to give away so if you'd like one, please let me know. 

I am linking this post in with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. As an aside, this is the last month that Celia will be hosting the event before it moves over to Maureen, the orgasmic chef, and I'd like to give her my sincere thanks for creating such a marvellous online kitchen tribe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recipe: Simple vegan gravy

Some times, all I want is a quick and easy dinner. From a nutritional standpoint, this meal probably won't win any awards, but from a taste and satisfaction perspective, it's a winner.

After a long hot day spent with visitors, then dragging two tired children around grocery shopping and heading to a work Christmas party that was outside in the heat, no one was in much of a mood to cook anything complicated.

Enter, the oven bake. Turn on the oven, load up with lots of goodies then load the kids into the bath while dinner cooks itself. All I wanted was potato gems, but the husband also baked up some chicken kiev for him (and a few bites for the kids).

For me though, it was all about those potato gems (all about the gems, 'bout the gems, no chicken...). Ahem... smothered with a quick and tasty homemade vegan gravy and other assorted toppings, it was a quick and easy dinner that was delicious. Be still my beating heart.

Anyway, here's the gravy recipe. It's hardly worth posting as it's just so simple, but a good home made gravy makes all the difference, and might just come in handy coming up to Christmas meal time!

Made with simple ingredients, you can make this as easy or complex as you want.

Tasty Vegan Gravy
Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable stock 
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • seasoning of your choice (1 teaspoon or so)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Add all ingredients to a saucepan on medium heat, and stir until the mixture boils and starts to thicken. 
  2. Check seasoning then lower heat and cook on a simmer, stirring constantly, until the gravy is at your desired consistency.
Notes
  • The gravy in these pictures is made using a Massel vegetable stock cube instead of anything homemade. It worked out fine
  • The 2 1/4 cups of stock can be made up of a mixture of stock and milk to make it creamier
  • I like adding nutritional yeast or some mixed herbs as my seasoning to make the gravy richer and more complex
  • You can add a bit of pizazz by adding onions or mushrooms to the gravy, sautéing them before adding the rest of the mixture

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