Vintage Cards and Christmas Shortbread

This art journal page evolved over a couple of happy hours crafting in my studio, listening to Christmas songs. The focal point is a Christmas card from my vintage card collection. The card was sent from a father in Italy to his daughter in New Zealand during the Second World War. During a time that was so fraught with heartbreak, with many families being separated from their loved ones, it must have been so special for that little girl to receive a Christmas card from her father from all those miles away across the ocean, and to know that he was all right. It makes me feel blessed to be surrounded by all my family at Christmas time.

To make the page, I painted and stencilled a background, then layered the card with Christmas sheet music, festive papers, fabric, lace and ribbon, finally adding a few little embellishments.

I love doing Christmas baking – homemade mince pies, Christmas cake, and Christmas cookies are enjoyed by all at this time of the year. This is my great-grandmother’s shortbread recipe. I add spices, orange zest, and cranberries at Christmas time to give it a festive touch.

Christmas Cranberry Shortbread

225g butter or non-dairy spread
125g icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
½ cup cranberries
375g flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Cream the butter and icing sugar.  Stir in the orange zest and cranberries. Add sifted flour, cornflour, and spice and mix. Knead well. Roll out the dough ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes. Prick with a fork to stop the dough from rising. (I forgot to do this, but they still turned out nice.) Bake at 160° C for 30 minutes. (I cook on fan bake so that the bottoms of the shortbread don’t burn.) Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

From our place to yours, Merry Christmas!

 

 

In My Garden

Our garden is thriving beneath the hot summer sun for my last garden post for the year.

The sweet peas self-seeded in the garden where we planted them last year. They make a lovely show and are great for picking to put in a vase. The more you pick them, the more they flower. Our orange tree is laden with fruit that is just ready to start picking. We use the rosemary on baked potato wedges, and for adding to food on the barbecue.

Our front porch.

The hydrangea in our front garden is such a beautiful shade of blue.

I bought a punnet of this pretty little plant from the garden center and planted it in pots. It is called sisyrinchium.

The veggie garden is thriving. We have been picking broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spring onions, kale, spinach and lettuces, as well as lots of herbs. We planted potatoes for the first time this year and I can’t wait to see how they turn out. I also planted tomatoes, beans, beetroot, carrots, basil, cucumbers and pumpkin.

Calendulas self-seeded throughout the veggie garden. Although the flowers are edible and can be added to salads, I have never tried eating them. I do dry the flowers, though, to make infused oils for use in hand creams and body lotions and lip balms.

I bought a chocolate mint to plant in a pot. Amazingly the leaves taste exactly like peppermint chocolate and are great for adding a chocolate mint flavour to biscuits.

I love berry season. Our strawberries have done really well this year. This strawberry shortcake is one of my favourite desserts. It is delicious served warm with ice cream, or served cold for afternoon tea with a cup of coffee or tea.

Strawberry Shortcake

3 cups strawberries
250g butter or non-dairy substitute
200g sugar
2 eggs
400g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a deep-sided baking dish with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the creamed mixture. Mix until a soft dough forms.

Spoon half the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Press down to evenly spread out the dough. Halve or quarter the strawberries (depending on their size) and spread them over the dough. Spoon over the remaining dough and press lightly with the back of a spoon to spread it evenly.

Bake for half an hour until golden brown on top. Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar.

~ ~ ~

We hung fairy lights across the front of the garden studio to give it a festive feel.

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Lime and Blueberry Cupcakes

Lime and Blueberry Cupcakes

We have had a lovely lot of limes from our tree over the last couple of months and I have been trying to come up with different ways to use them. I adore the smell of limes. It always reminds me of a lime pudding that we used to have when I was a child. I made these lime and blueberry cupcakes as an indulgent treat to have with a cup of tea (or coffee). It is a quick and easy recipe to make.

Ingredients

150g butter or non-dairy spread
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 cup blueberries

To make

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line muffin trays with paper cupcake cases.

Cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and mix to combine. Stir in the grated lime zest and juice, followed by the blueberries.

Divide the mixture between the paper cases. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool, then ice with lime frosting. Sprinkle a little grated lime zest on top of each cake.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Lime Frosting

60g softened butter or non-dairy spread
250g icing sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the other ingredients and mix to a spreadable consistency. Spread or pipe the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes.

Lime and Blueberry Cupcakes

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

This is another recipe I have been making to use some of the walnuts we collected on our walks.

Banana Oatmeal Muffin

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup raw sugar
½ cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 large or 3 small bananas, mashed
¾ cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 180° C.

Combine oats and milk in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Add oil, beaten eggs, and vanilla essence to soaked mixture of oats and milk, and stir. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Mix in mashed bananas and walnut pieces.

Lightly oil muffin tins and fill with mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Zucchini Muffins

zucchini muffins

It is the hottest month of the year and our garden is flourishing. We have a glut of zucchinis at the moment. I have been making zucchini loaves and bakes, using them in stir-fries and salads, and making muffins. These muffins are good for putting in the freezer and taking out one or two at a time for lunches.

zucchinis

Ingredients:

1 egg
1 cup milk or dairy-free alternative (I used oat milk)
¼ cup oil
2 cups wholemeal flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 medium unpeeled zucchini
100g grated cheese or dairy-free alternative
1 small red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped herbs (I used parsley and garlic chives)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

To Make:

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Whisk the egg and milk together, then stir in the oil. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir to combine. Grate the zucchini, squeeze out excess moisture, and add to the mixture. Add the cheese, onion, and herbs and mix to combine. Spoon into lightly oiled, 12-hole muffin tin. Sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Bake for 35-40 minutes, covering tops after 30 minutes if they start to burn.

zucchini muffins

Mini Pumpkin Quiches

mini pumpkin quiches

This is a great recipe for using up leftover pumpkin. The little quiches, made in muffin pans, are a good finger food for parties, with Halloween just around the corner, or, as the days are getting warmer here in New Zealand, they are nice for taking on picnics.

Pastry

150 g wholemeal flour
150 g plain flour
150 g butter or dairy-free spread (I use Olivani)
cold water to mix

Sift the flours into a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add cold water a little at a time and mix until the dough forms a ball. Chill the pastry for half an hour before rolling it out.

Filling

1-2 cups cold mashed pumpkin
2 eggs
¼ cup milk or dairy-free alternative (I use oat milk)
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon savoury yeast flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 spring onions, chopped

Heat the oven to 200°C.
Whisk the eggs and milk together. Whisk in the pumpkin, then add all the other ingredients and mix.
Roll out the pastry and cut into 12 rounds, using a mug or cup. Grease the muffin tins with a little oil, then place a pastry round into each hole. Divide the filling between the rounds, being careful not to overflow. Any leftover filling can be used to make extra quiches with the leftover pastry. Cook for 30 minutes.

mini pumpkin quiches2

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

Peanut butter dog biscuits

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

As someone who loves food and enjoys cooking, I like to know that what I am eating is healthy and is made from good ingredients. I also want the same for our dog. Our puppy, Finn, absolutely loves his food and I want to make sure that he has a good diet that is nutritional, as well as tasty.

I have been trying out different dog food recipes for dog loaf, dog stew, and biscuits, which I have found on the internet and in books. After playing around with several dog biscuit recipes, I have adapted them to come up with one that Finn really loves, and which includes lots of healthy ingredients for him.

This recipe makes about 40 small biscuits. I keep them in the freezer so that they stay fresh, and take out a few each day for his lunch.

1 beaten egg
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil
3 Tablespoons peanut butter with no added salt
½ cup chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Form into small balls and place on greased or paper-lined oven tray. Flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake for 45 minutes at 150ºC.

All gone

More please!

More please!

New Recipe Folder and Great-grandma Jozina’s Shortbread

If you love to cook and you’re anything like me, you probably have piles of recipes tucked away in a drawer, waiting to be tried out. I have manilla folders of recipes cut from magazines and scraps of paper with recipes scribbled down from television cooking shows. Often I’ll go to look for one and spend ages trying to find it. I had a recipe book in which I wrote my favourite recipes, but I filled it up a while ago. Recently, while browsing in a bookshop, I saw a lovely vintage-themed recipe folder that I couldn’t resist.

recipe folder

It has dividers that I can decorate with stickers and embellishments, lined pages for writing in, plain pages for pasting in handwritten recipes given to me by other people, and plastic sleeves for slipping in recipes saved from magazines. I also like that it’s a ring binder style so I can add more pages when I need to.

recipe folder

recipe folder 2

Now I just have to work my way through that big pile of recipes and put the ones that turn out nice into my lovely new recipe folder where I can find them easily.

The handwritten shortbread recipe was given to me by my mother, passed down from my great-grandmother, so the recipe has been around for quite some time. Nice to have with a cup of tea or coffee.

Great-grandma Jozina’s Shortbread

8 oz (225g) butter
4 oz (125g) icing sugar
13 oz (375g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) cornflour

Beat butter and icing sugar to a cream. Add flour and cornflour. Knead well.
Roll out to required thickness (¼ – ½ inch).
Cut into squares or fingers. Prick well with fork to stop rising.
Bake about 20 – 30 minutes at 160ºC (320ºF ) Be careful not to overcook underneath.
Cool on wire tray.

shortbread1

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

As usual, at this time of the year, we have an abundance of zucchini in our garden. I have been cooking them in stir fries and fritters and pizzas, making zucchini slice, and baking zucchini blueberry loaves for the freezer.

Yesterday I made a chocolate zucchini cake, which turned out really nice. Although Nick isn’t a big fan of zucchini, he loved the cake and wouldn’t have even known it had zucchini in it if I hadn’t told him. I used the same recipe as my Red Velvet Beetroot cake, but substituted the beetroot for zucchini, and cooked it a little longer.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

250g peeled and grated zucchini
3 eggs, beaten
1¾ cups raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
250ml oil (I used olive oil)
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180º C.
Beat together eggs and sugar. Mix in vanilla, oil, and zucchini until well combined. Add sifted flour, baking powder, and cocoa and mix well. Pour batter into greased or paper-lined cake tin.
Bake for 55 minutes. Spread with frosting when cool.

Chocolate Orange Frosting

60g butter or dairy-free spread
250g icing sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa
grated zest of 1 orange
2 Tablespoons orange juice

Beat all ingredients together until spreadable consistency. Spread over cake.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Raspberry Crumble Slice

One of the things I love about summer is all the lovely berries that are around at this time of year. My favourites are raspberries and blueberries. I enjoy making raspberry jam, using the berries in puddings and muffins and cakes, or adding them to cereal for breakfast. I picked the first of our blueberries yesterday! We have two blueberry bushes, which usually provide us with enough berries for the summer, as well as some for the freezer.

One of my favourite recipes is one that Mum used to make when we were kids. She would bake all her own cakes and biscuits, and we would always have yummy things to eat when we got home from school. Although this recipe is made with raspberry jam, you can use any jam. Sometimes I make it with homemade plum jam, which is just as nice.

Raspberry Crumble

Raspberry Crumble Slice

350g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
70g caster sugar
150g butter or non-dairy spread
1 egg
4 rounded tablespoons raspberry jam (or any other jam)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then stir in the caster sugar. Rub in the butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and mix in lightly so the mixture is still crumbly. Divide the mixture in half and press half the mixture firmly into the base of a greased or baking paper-lined tin. Mix the cinnamon and jam together and spread over the base. Spread the rest of the crumbs over the jam, leaving the texture rough. Bake at 180ºC for half an hour. Cool in the tin, then cut into squares.

Garden Journal – August

With another winter almost over and spring just around the corner, the gardens and roadsides are coming to life with blossom-covered trees. The tuis adore the nectar they provide at this time of year. Nick took these photos of a tui drinking from the blossom flowers where he is working at the moment.

Tui

Tui

Tui drinking nectar

The bright yellow flowers of the wattle trees have been adding a splash of sunshine to the winter days. I wish we had room for one in our garden. I love the Golden Wattles with their clusters of small pompom flowers that we see when we go for walks.

Golden Wattle

Golden Wattle

The weather is warming up and new growth is emerging, with flowers appearing that have been dormant over the winter months. I’ve been planning what to plant in my garden this year, drawing diagrams, making sure to rotate the crops where I have room, and reading through my companion planting book to make sure not to plant things next to each other which don’t get on. I’ve started a few seeds off inside to get a head start. A little glasshouse is on my wish list, the trouble is finding somewhere in the garden to put one!

I have been keeping a garden journal for a year now. I started last September, at the beginning of spring. It’s interesting to look back over a complete cycle of the seasons and see how the garden changes.

august garden journal

Our broccoli are finally ready for harvesting. I cut the main heads off and and let the plants continue to grow so that they form side-shoots.

broccoli

Broccoli and Mushroom Gratin

1 large head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or non-dairy spread
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups milk (or soya milk or oat milk)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1½ cups grated cheese
2 tablespoons butter or non-dairy spread, melted
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 180º C.

Cut the broccoli into florets and steam until bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes. Place in lightly greased baking dish.

Heat the oil and saute the onion and mushrooms until the onion begins to soften and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Spread mixture over broccoli.

Heat the butter or non-dairy spread in a saucepan. Stir in the flour until smooth, then gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened. Add the parsley, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the cheese, and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Pour the sauce over the broccoli mixture in the dish.

Stir together the melted butter, breadcrumbs and remaining cheese, and sprinkle over the gratin.

Bake about 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

broccoli & mushroom gratin

Garden Journal – July

The first of our winter bulbs are blooming. The sweet little snowdrops with their hanging heads of pure white were the first to appear, closely followed by the little double jonquils in the corner of the garden beneath the trees. They look like miniature cream roses and their scent is amazing!

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Jonquils

Jonquils

Our citrus trees are producing an abundance of fruit this winter. Lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges – infusing the cold winter days with the tangy taste of summer.

Grapefruit & orange trees

Grapefruit & orange trees

garden journal-July

There is nothing nicer on a cold winter’s night than a comforting pudding. Self-saucing puddings are easy to make and can be adapted to different flavours. For this one I used lemons and limes from our trees to give it a nice citrusy flavour. If it doesn’t all get eaten the first night, it is nice cold the next day when the sponge has soaked up the flavours, leaving a little jelly-like  sauce on the bottom.

Lemon and Lime Self-saucing Pudding

50g butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Syrup
¾ cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons cornflour
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg. Stir in zest, citrus juices and milk. Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix well and place into deep, greased baking dish. Mix syrup ingredients together and pour over batter. Bake 30 minutes.

lemon & lime self-saucing pudding

Garden Journal – June

Winter has brought us an interesting mix of weather this month with some rain and cloudy days, interspersed with chilly morning frosts followed by brilliant sunshine that just makes you want to get out in the garden and mingle with nature.

We made a little memorial garden for Cody next to the decking in our backyard, where we see it every time we go outside. We miss her terribly and still feel her presence everywhere. We planted winter flowers – pansies, primroses and dianthus, and I transplanted some forget-me-not seedlings to flower later. The little dog ornament looks so much like Cody!

Cody's Garden

Our wonderful friend, Erica, gave us a tin of  Yates heritage seeds to plant in our garden in memory of Cody. The seeds commemorate 130 years of Yates in New Zealand, and the tin comes with a little booklet telling the story of Arthur Yates, who emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1879. Following in his family’s tradition of seed merchants, he opened the first of his seed shops in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1883.

Inside the tin there are 10 varieties of heritage flower and vegetable seeds – pansies, sunflowers, tomatoes and carrots, to name a few. I can’t wait for spring to come so I can start planting them!

Yates seeds

Garden journal - June

It’s lovely to have herbs in the garden over winter to add to stews and soups, stuffings, breads and vegetable dishes. One of my favourite winter meals is soup and crusty bread. For this vegetable and lentil soup I used seasonal vegetables from one of our local market gardens and garnished it with parsley from our garden. For the herbed cheese bread I used organic goat’s cheese, and rosemary and sage from our garden. You can use whatever seasonal herbs you have in the garden. In the summer it would be nice with basil and oregano. Or if you don’t have herbs growing in the garden, it can just as easily be made with dried herbs.

Herbed Cheese Bread

3 teaspoons dried yeast
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 cups white flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated cheese
½ cup chopped fresh herbs or 1 tablespoon dried herbs
2 tablespoons oil
1¼ cups warm water

To make by hand:
In a large bowl, mix together flour, yeast, sugar, salt, cheese and herbs. Make a well in the centre, then slowly add the oil and water, stirring to form a soft dough, and adding a little extra flour if necessary. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and and knead for 10 minutes until the dough forms a soft ball. Shape into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl, then shape into a round loaf and place onto a greased baking tray. Leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Preheat oven to 200º C. Dust bread with a little flour, cut criss crosses into the top, then bake for 30 minutes, covering top during cooking if it starts to burn.

Alternatively, the dough can be made in a breadmaker, then shaped into a round, placed on a baking tray and left to rise as above.

Herbed Cheese Bread

Vegetable and Lentil Soup

400g pumpkin, peeled and chopped
200g potatoes, peeled and chopped
100g broccolli, cut into florets
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons lentils
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup milk or cream (or soya milk or oat milk)
parsley to garnish

Place first 7 ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer 30 minutes. Puree or blend. Add milk and seasoning to taste. Heat without boiling. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Gingerbread Cupcakes

In my novel, Scrappy Cupcake Angels, Jodi enjoys baking cupcakes to take along to the weekly scrapbooking classes at Wattle Lane Keepsakes. Here is another of the recipes that she makes for the women in the group to enjoy when they stop for a coffee break.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

125g softened butter or dairy-free spread
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (or soya milk or oat milk)
175g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.

Cream together butter, brown sugar and golden syrup. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add sifted dry ingredients, then milk, and mix to combine. Divide mixture between paper cases. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Let cool, then dust with icing sugar or ice with ginger frosting.

Ginger Frosting

50g softened butter or dairy-free spread
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons milk (or soya milk or oat milk)

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sifted icing sugar and ginger. Add milk and beat to spreadable consistency.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Garden Journal – May

Cody

May has been a sad month for us with the death of our beloved dog, Cody. After having her in our lives for fifteen happy years, her passing has left a big gap in our hearts and our home. I miss having her with me when I work in the garden. She used to lie in the sun and watch me while I weeded and planted, and sometimes she would come and help me dig. For many years, she loved to play ball in the backyard, or lie beneath the orange tree and chew her bone. She still enjoyed her daily walks right up until the end, but for the last few months, when she was home, she just enjoyed basking in the sun, with a token attempt at chasing a ball. We’re going to make a special place in the garden for Cody. Her presence will be felt in our home and garden for a long time, but I know that she is out there somewhere, free from her pain, running and having fun like she loved to do.

I haven’t done very much in the garden this month apart from weeding and pruning, and planting some more lettuces to replace the ones that got eaten by snails.

The delphiniums that I planted from seed last spring began flowering early in the month. The beautiful blue blooms have added some colour to the autumn garden.

Garden journal-May

Silverbeet, or Swiss chard, is a good staple to have in the veggie garden. It is a rich source of minerals and vitamins, including potassium, manganese, iron, folate, and vitamins A, C, E and K. The young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, and the mature leaves can be sautéed or cooked in vegetable dishes. Hunza Pie is one of my favourite ways to use silverbeet.

Hunza Pie

Pastry

2 cups wholemeal flour
140g butter or non-dairy spread
cold water to mix (about ¼ cup)

Filling

3 cups cooked brown rice
1 bunch silverbeet (6-8 stalks)
2 cups grated cheese
2 eggs
½ tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

To make Pastry: Rub butter into flour. Add water and mix to form dough. Line pie plate with pastry and bake for 15 minutes at 160ºC.

To make filling: Lightly steam or sauté silverbeet until just wilted. Squeeze out moisture and roughly chop leaves and stalks. In a bowl, beat eggs. Add cooked rice, silverbeet, cheese and seasonings. Mix to combine. Spread in pastry shell and cook at 180ºC for 45 minutes.

Hunza Pie

Hunza Pie2

Garden Journal – April

April is a pretty time of the year with trees turning beautiful shades of autumn hues. Although we are only a month away from winter, it is 25º celsius here today! The seasons seem to be getting later and later every year. We picked the last of our zucchinis last week and our blueberries have finally come to an end. We got a lovely lot for the freezer. While there isn’t a great deal to harvest from the veggie garden at the moment, I have planted more cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers, as well as lettuces and beetroot.

We had heaps of cineraria seedlings spring up throughout the veggie garden from a couple of plants we had in there last year. They are one of my favourite flowers – especially the blues and purples. I have transplanted them throughout the rest of the garden, as well as borage plants which also self-seeded readily. Borage is a great bee plant, with its pretty blue star-shaped flowers, so is a good one to grow near the veggies.

April garden journal

April garden journal2

Rhubarb is a wonderful plant to have in the garden. Tucked away in a corner, it pretty much takes care of itself and it lasts for years and years. Although the leaves are poisonous, the stalks are high in dietary fiber and are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Stewed rhubarb is nice to have for breakfast with cereal, and it can be used in all sorts of desserts. This month’s recipe is a rhubarb crumble, which is delicious served with cream, ice cream, custard, or yoghurt.

Rhubarb Crumble1

Rhubarb Crumble

3 cups diced rhubarb
¾ cup sugar
grated rind of 1 orange
2 tablespoons water

For the crumble:
50g butter or non-dairy spread
½ cup flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Place rhubarb in a dish. Sprinkle with sugar, orange rind and water.
To make crumble, rub the butter into the flour, oats and sugar until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in cinnamon.
Cover rhubarb with the crumble mix and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Rhubarb Crumble

Garden Journal – March

This month we finally had some rain to break the drought, but not nearly enough. The days are still warm, but the early mornings are cooler. Our tomatoes and beans are finished and have been pulled out, leaving the garden looking a little bare. I’ve planted some more spring onions, as well as some broccolli, cauliflower and cabbages. I’ve surrounded them with crushed eggshells to deter the snails, and covered them with mesh frames to protect them from birds, so hopefully they’ll have a chance to grow before being eaten.

vegetable garden

We have a lot of birds in our garden as I encourage them by tossing a couple of handfuls of wild bird seed onto the back lawn every morning, as well as stale bread when we have it. The sparrows sit and wait on the trellis outside the kitchen every morning, as soon as they see movement through the window. I love a garden full of birds.

We have a new addition to our garden. I rescued a bird bath from my aunt’s house when she moved. It is very old and rustic, but it looks very much at home in our garden, replacing our old one that fell over and broke when a cat jumped on it. The birds love the new bird bath, so I’m sure it will get plenty of use!

Bird bath

Garden Journal March

Garden Journal Calendula

We have been picking blueberries throughout the month, and this month’s recipe is a Blueberry and Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Custard, using berries from our garden and Golden Queen peaches from the local market garden.

Blueberry and Peach Cobbler

80g butter or dairy-free spread
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 ripe peaches, sliced
¾ cup blueberries

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla essence. Sift in dry ingredients and mix.
Place peach slices in a baking dish. Sprinkle over blueberries. Spread batter on top.
Bake at 180ºC for 30 minutes.

Vanilla Custard

2 cups milk (or soy milk or oat milk)
2 tablespoons custard powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Pour 1¾ cups of the milk into a saucepan. Mix sugar and custard powder into the remaining ¼ cup milk. Add this to the rest of the milk in the saucepan. Add the vanilla essence. Heat, stirring constantly until boiling, then simmer for 2-3 minutes or until thickened.

Blueberry & Peach Cobbler

Foods that remind me of Grandma

Grandma's Seed Cake

When I was a child, once a year we would make the 300km journey to stay with my grandparents for a week during the summer school holidays. There were five of us—Mum, Dad, my sister, brother and me, and we travelled in a small Hillman Imp with our dog, Topsy, on Mum’s knee.

I have fond memories of those holidays, and especially of Grandma’s cooking. To this day, the smell of mint takes me back to Grandma’s roast lamb with mint sauce. Every night she would cook a delicious pudding. There were steamed puddings with custard, Apple Roll, Lemon Surprise Pudding, rice puddings, and Pretending Tommy made with homemade jam or fruit.

I remember the stewed plums for breakfast, and scones or ginger gems for lunch. For afternoon tea there would be homemade biscuits and cakes. Two that remain etched in my memory are Canadian Date Cake and Seed Cake. Grandma’s is the only place I can ever remember having eaten seed cake.

Recently my mother and I were going through Grandma’s old recipe books and we found one from the 1920’s. Although it is moth-eaten and stained, it was fascinating looking through the recipes, some of which we still make today. The cover of the book was missing, but we could tell from the advertisements that it was a local recipe book with recipes contributed from members of the community. It was amusing to see ads for the ‘latest’ motor cars. The recipe book is truly a slice of history and a family heirloom to treasure.

  recipe book5

recipe book3

recipe book4

recipe book2

After finding Grandma’s Seed Cake recipe in one of her books, I bought some caraway seeds to try it out. The recipe is simple to make, yet has a unique taste and texture, and as I bite into it I am transported back to those childhood holidays spent at Grandma and Granddad’s during those hot, humid summers. While my grandparents are no longer with us, those memories will remain with me forever, ignited by the smell of mint, the crunch of a caraway seed, the comfort of a warm steamed pudding with custard.

seed cake

Seed Cake

125 g butter (I used dairy-free spread)
125 g sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon whisky or brandy
175 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Cream butter and sugar. Stir in whisky or brandy. Add beaten eggs alternately with flour, baking powder and caraway seeds previously mixed.
Bake 45 minutes at 180ºC.

Instead of whisky or brandy, I used ½ teaspoon vanilla essence. I don’t remember if Grandma ever iced hers, but I iced mine with lemon icing.

Grandma

Grandma

Garden Journal – February

February garden

February has been a hot, dry month. While there is still lots of colour in the garden, all of my pot plants are looking a little tired, and the trees could definitely do with a good drink. The air has been filled with the cheerful chirruping of cicadas, day and night, a sound I always associate with summer.

The heat-loving tomatoes have been doing well. I’ve made two lots of relish, pasta sauce for the freezer and we have been eating them in salads and sandwiches every day.

Tomato Relish

We’re still picking runner beans, but the zucchinis have almost come to an end. We have been picking blueberries all month, with enough to freeze for future use. Yummy with breakfast cereal or oatmeal, and in pancakes, smoothies, crumbles, or muffins.

Our thyme is in full bloom at the moment. I love its distinctive aroma. The small pink flowers are so pretty and attract the bees to the garden. It’s lovely to be able to go out the back door and pick a few sprigs to use in cooking. The sprigs look pretty in a vase as well.

Although it is sad that another summer is almost over, I am definitely looking forward to some cooler weather and the changing colours of autumn.

February garden journal

Thyme

Blueberry Muffins

1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup raw sugar
100 ml oil
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 200º C.
Sift flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in sugar and blueberries. In another bowl, beat together egg and milk. Add oil and mix. Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients and mix to combine. Grease muffin pans and place spoonfuls of mixture into each one. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 2-3 minutes before removing from pans. Makes 12 muffins.

Blueberry Muffins

Garden Journal – January

This month has been busy harvesting foods from the garden and making jams and preserves from local fruit. We have been picking our runner beans regularly throughout the month and started picking our tomatoes the last week of the month. The tomatoes are from a packet of heirloom tomato seeds that I planted, so it has been fun to see what they turn out like, with the tomatoes evolving into an interesting variety of shapes and sizes. I have continued to plant beetroot, carrots and spring onions for an ongoing supply into the autumn.

Harvest from our garden

Harvest from our garden

I had a go at making blueberry jam but it was a bit of a flop as it didn’t set properly. Apparently blueberry jam is tricky to get right. However, it will no doubt get eaten as toppings for desserts etc.

One of my favourite fruits, Black Doris plums, came into season at the end of the month. We found an organic orchard that sell them, not far from where we live, and bought loads to make jams and preserves. The Black Doris jam was a success, and there are plenty of plums left over to make desserts as well as stewed plums to have with our breakfast cereal.

Preserves

I have continued to make zucchini slices and loaves for the freezer. The one zucchini plant has been providing us with an ongoing supply. I also bottled nectarines and beetroot. This is the first year we have grown our own beetroot and we have been enjoying it roasted and with salads. It’s great that it is so easy to grow, as beetroot is highly nutritious, high in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, and good for the heart. My new favourite cake is Red Velvet Beetroot cake. There are many variations on Red Velvet Cake, some using red food colouring and some using beetroot. I have adapted the recipes to make my own version  – see below.

There are lots of herbs flowering in our garden at the moment. The blue and purple flowers are very pretty and are good for encouraging bees to the vegetable garden.

Copy of Garden Journal - January

Garden journal-Stevia

Red Velvet Beetroot Cake

This is a moist cake. If it is a little gooey in the middle, don’t worry, it will be all the more delicious!

250g cooked beetroot, grated
3 eggs, beaten
1 ¾ cups raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
250ml vegetable oil
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180º C.

Beat together eggs and sugar. Mix in vanilla, oil and beetroot until well combined. Add sifted flours, baking powder and cocoa to mixture and mix well. Pour batter into cake tin.

Bake for 45 minutes. Cool and spread with chocolate vanilla cream cheese icing.

Chocolate Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter or non-dairy spread, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 ½ cups icing sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter together. Add vanilla. Sift in cocoa powder and icing sugar and mix until smooth and creamy.

Red velvet beetroot cake

Slice of Red Velvet Beetroot cake