discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Friday, 30 August 2013

Soup Nazi

Soup Nazi Hand Stamped Vintage Soup Spoon by BabyPuppyDesigns. $13.00, via Etsy.
I’m on a bit of a soup roll at the moment, I love them this time of year especially so I wanted to share this ripper with you.  I love the Soup Nazi off Seinfeld,   it puts a smile on my face whenever I think about these episodes. “No soup for you….2 weeks!” Oh to have that power.  So any way, this recipe is one of my all-time favourite soups.   I first had it made for me by some dear friends nearly 20 years ago. The real reason I bring up Seinfeld is they both love the show too, but it was this recipe that I wish to thank them for, it changed the way I thought of soups forever.  I’m happiest when my freezer is brimming with soup all in nice portions for my lunches in the winter time. At the moment I have pumpkin soup, pearl barley and veg, Puy lentil and spinach, jerusalem artichoke and this cockle warming Pea and Ham.

Pea and Ham Soup
1 ham hock
2 -3 stalks of celery, finely diced
2-3 carrots, finely diced
1 zucchini finely diced
1 onion finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 pkt of split peas, green or yellow
Water  and /or some chicken stock to cover 

Saute onion and garlic until soft, add all ingredients and simmer for hours!! I do mine in the slow cooker these days and let it go all day. 

You can use your little barmix whizzer to blitz up the vegies before you cook them so they disintegrate into the soup, more for my childs sake and they break down into the soup giving it more body and saves that step at the end, I did it with just chopped vegies. Once it is ready just remove the hock and discard the skin, any fat and chop the meat up into nice bite sized pieces. 

This delicious hearty soup is great the next day, with a poached egg on top or with crusty bread or with the cheesy verstion of the no knead bread.  I added grated vintage cheddar to the final gentle knead and then sprinkled some on top. It really is easier than making toast this bread. I started it in the morning and let it prove near the heater as its so cold here at the moment, 6 hours later I baked it, I was so impressed with the 'holyness' of the bread!
Unfortunately my 'normal' companion, my laptop, has died a quiet death and I can't access my photos, luckily I drafted this post days ago.  I'm hoping it will be fixed and back to me in no time as it really is my lifeline!!

Bananas for bananas

Typographic Poster, Digital Print, Kitchen Wall Art, Wall Sign, orange, cream - 11x14 - Typography. $20.00, via Etsy.

Bananas. I remeber being one of the people paying over $20 a kilo for these babies after the terrible storms in Queensland a few years ago.  I've loved them since falling for the scent in a big M hoola hoop I won at the local show probably circa 1981, I'm not kidding! That heady scent stayed with me and once they became available more readily in the late 80's I don't think I've gone many a day without one.  I love them sliced on my cereal for breakfast, as a snack sliced on rice cakes with a smidge of  honey, banana smoothies, topped on to greek yoghurt with a sprinkle of nuts, on fruit toast but an old time fav has to be banana bread.  I struggle to keep my bananas til the skins are really dark and ripe as I eat them too quickly, but lucky for me my fruit monger often bags bundles of them up for a steal that are perfect for this recipe.

Banana bread
3 large ripe bananas
3 eggs
180gms melted butter
1 1/2 cups s.r.flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbspns honey
Preheat oven to 180c.  

Blend bananas and honey in a food processor, or use a fork and mash & mix well.  Sift flour into a large bowl and add sugar, and banana mixture. Using a hand beater or your elbow grease, add butter and mix in well, adding an egg at a time.  

Unload into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake for around 45 minutes.  Allow to cook slightly in tin and then place onto a wire rack to cool before you slice it up, don't be stingy, nice thick slices.  

My nan loves it with butter but I love it on its own or with a spread of thick greek yoghurt and walnuts its dreamy.

Ciao, Jan

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Lovely lemons

I love lemons, so much so if I was to be stranded on an island it would be one of my top 5 things to take, that and an extremely good extra virgin olive oil, maldon sea salt, avocado, and a crisp white wine and I'd be set for months, well as long as there was a fishing line, some type of greens and my hubby to get it all for me!! But anyway, too much island talk, back to the lemons, I scored a big bag full of the yellowy delights from a friend with a gorgeous tree.  I'm pretty lucky, I rarely have to pay for lemons, due to having made the right friends.  I've had a lemon cooking fest this past week, and here are the spoils.

I've been spritzing these juicy lemons on salads, vegies and dips. But I tried the deliciously moist orange cake as a lemon cake and with great success. It really is the easiest cake recipe that delivers everytime. Even better it can be whipped up in minutes.

I whizzed up 5 small sized lemons, but next time would take out some of the pips as it had a slight bitter after taste, I was being lazy.  But it was nothing a good slurp of cream & a cup of tea didn't balance out.

These are by far the yummiest lemony roast potatoes going.  Par boil your spuddies, leaving the skins on, and when just tender enough for a knife to slide in, drain them well.  In the meantime, heat a few glugs of olive oil in a roasting tray at 200c for 5 minutes until it is hot.  Peel the rind off 2 lemons, throw in some sprigs of rosemary, 4-5 cloves of garlic still with the skin on, smash down on the spuddies with a folk to losen some bits up, they will be deliciously crunchy at the end and roast for around 30 minutes until spuddies are golden, mwah!

This is a simple lip smacking lemon delicious slice, a great take on the old fashioned and much loved lemon delicious pudding.

Phew so many lemony recipes I'm going to have to go and get another bag full.

Ciao, Jan

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

gardening delights

finelaceandpearls: (via TumbleOn)

Summer....remember it? Warm sunny days, hot balmy nights. If you are living in my neck of the woods you, I'm sure, must be over it. Rain, hail, cold, wind. Caged animal rings a bell, and a freezing one at that!!!

So hope was restored recently when hubby made us some special planter beds. Hanging from the fence, dodgy old roof spouting rehashed into fancy strawberry beds. 12 weeks and they should be mine!!  Aren't they clever.

He assures me they are suppose to be crooked so when he hooks up the dripper come summer it will run down progressively but it messes with my OCD brain, they should be straight!!!  I'm shocking, put me in a room and I'll find the crooked picture frame without even thinking about it.

We've also got some beautiful brocolli, cauliflower, rocket, cabbage, rhubarb, cos lettuce,  and baby bok choy all ready to harvest this week.

baby bok choy

And these are a firm favourite, pod peas.   They should show their delicious selves in a month or so.  In the ground these past few weeks have gone parsnips, beetroots, gorgeous new potatoes, radishes, spring onions, carrots, cos lettuce, more rocket, and my beloved tomatoes which should all be ready for Christmas day lunch, so exciting, oh and I can't forget the onions and garlic planted at the start of winter should also be ready for the big day, I can just taste my garlic puff oysters already, better than any brought presents!  

Are you planning a summer vegie garden? If so what are you putting in?  If you haven't a huge green thumb, why not try some tomato seedlings in a few pots? We plant from saved seeds from last years tomato crop which obviously takes longer but grab yourself some when they come into the shops in a month or two. Pop it into a nice sunny spot and don't forget to water it and you will be greatly rewarded.

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 26 August 2013

Decluttering challenge ~ final week

TRAIN YOUR WIFE vintage poste
I found this on pinterest the other week and it makes me laugh.....I'm sure our husbands would love it if we learnt these valuable lessons.

I'm a bit unorganised today, usually I have quite a few posts drafted but was away at a wedding all the weekend so this will be short and sweet.

Ok so its time to go hard or have a cluttered home. Not sure if many of you have been keeping up the challenge.  I'm pleased to say by the end of this weekend, my linen cupboard will be finally in order, my shoes sorted out, kitchen pantry gleaming and my kitchen draw is still neat as a pin.  I'm going to continue with this decluttering mantra as often as I can as for me a clear house equals a clear mind.

Ciao Jan

Friday, 23 August 2013

Creamy carbonara

Vintage Italian Pasta Stamp Stock Photo - 14651212

Have you ever had 'real' carbonara? Not the ones with scrambled egg or ones heavy with cream, a traditional one? You are in for a treat, a simple one at that.  There have been many a carbonara crime committed but I'm here to lay down the law on how it is done.

I had some leftover spaghetti from meatballs the night before which spurred on this dish. Add a finely chopped onion, a minced clove of garlic or two, 1/2 a cup of finely grated parmesan, a few rashers of bacon (pancetta ideally), chopped parsley, al dente spaghetti (around 2 cups worth) and 3 free range egg yolks and you are on your way to pasta heaven.

Once the garlic, onion and bacon have been gently fried in some evoo, toss through the cold pasta or if you are cooking from scratch the hot pasta and add some extra water, say around 1/2 a cup. Don't be shy to use the water the pasta has been boiled in, it will contain some of the pasta starch to help the emulsion.  Turn the heat up high and keep tossing until most of the water has evaporated.  Crack in lots of black pepper, I mean around 20 or so turns of the pepper mill and add the parsley.

Then, the crucial point, take the fry pan OFF the heat and add your egg yolks & parmesan and mix well.  There will be enough residual heat in the pan to cook the eggs but not create a scrambled mess.  Dish up without delay.  It is silky and velvety without being heavy like its cream based brothers, and as this served 2 greedy people, it isn't too bad on the hips but you will feel like you have had a wicked treat.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

You are more than just a number

Vintage scale

Warning....this one is personal....Growing up as a child I was always the heavy one and so the trend continued in my teens. It was down to genes, hormones and the like, but I also comfort ate, usually out of boredom. The closer to twenty I got the lighter I became, I was independent and working in the big smoke, making new friends and having new experiences.  I was so happy I went out and brought myself my first set of scales....Fast forward nearly 20 years (gulp) I am still a serial daily weigher....but that is about to change. 

I'm getting rid of them, not throwing away you may note. I'm edgy just thinking about the move.  How will I know if I gain weight? How will I know my number?  For the first time in a long time I'm over it. I'm over the number messing with my happiness at the beginning of the day.  I'm over thinking I will be happy when I get to xyz number.  Why am I giving my power away to a number? To a scale? Seems stupid when you think of it. And I'm doing it for my daughter. I always make sure she isn't around nor do I talk about anything to do with weight, being fat, being on a diet in front of her, but they are sponges and soon she will be onto me and I really don't want her to have this same pointless bad, habit


I'm suffering from an illness called Migraine Associated Vertigo or Vestibular Migraines. It causes dizziness like you are on a boat, extreme exhaustion, and chronic neck and shoulder pain but unlike a typical migraine no headaces. Unless of course my body throws one of those in for good measure. Thanks to some drugs I'm improving but its a day by day monkey on my back, but out of it has come many positives. This blog being one, giving me something else to focus on with all my time laying horizontal, another counting my blessings as there is always someone worse off.  It has made me really re-evaluate the important things in life and me doing my head in everyday over some scales is over.  I've weighed, apart from gaining 20kgs when I was pregnant, around about the same for over 20 years.  I don't think weighing myself has anything to do with this now that I looking back.  

Never Trust a Skinny Cook garden marker or Cook Book bookmark Vintage SPOON

It has to do with my lifestyle and how much I love to cook from scratch, eat healthily, walking most days for exercise of the mind and body.  I'm not going to suddenly turn my car into the kfc drive through or have a secret chocolate binge, just because I don't weigh myself,it isn't me.  Nor am I going to ever have thin legs like my cousin. Damn it!!

So the only scales I will be using from now on, are the ones to cook with!

Ciao, Jan

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Kale, pumpkin and feta frittata

Kale, bit of trend setter at the moment, its the latest IT food, and I've caught the bug.  Even better than the taste is its one of the healtiest vegies going. I got my hands on a gorgeous bunch at the farmers market and made this easy but oh so delicious fritatta.  I had some leftover roasted pumpkin lurking in the fridge from dinner the night before so toasted some pinenuts to add some texture.  Fritatta is a wonderfully versitile dish, as long as you stick with the right amount of eggs you can add a multitude of combinations. Some times the simplier the better, goats cheese, mint and pea is a favourite as is mushroom and parmesan.  But let your cooking juices run wild.  Again, use good quality free range eggs at the least. I got a dozen for $3 from the market, so no excuses. I actually ran into a reader in the supermarket awhile back near the egg aisle.  He looked in my basket to check what eggs I had, organic free range, I think he thought I was all talk.  We went and he showed me what he normally disappointing!! But I firmly added free range into his basket. The funny thing is, his excuse was price, but I'm sure he is on a cracker of a salary and wouldn't even blink at spending money in the liquor department!!

So crack 6 eggs in a bowl and whisk well. Season generously with s & p.  Chop your kale up and steam in microwave for 5 minutes.  

 I love using this old Pie dish of my nan's but you can use a pan that can go into the oven or a quiche dish is great too.

In the dish lay the kale, then arrange the pumpkin, pinenuts then dot with feta and a sprinkle of herbs, I used mint and parsley.  Pour over the eggy goodness and put in a preheated oven at 200c for 35 mins

Wack it under the griller to give it a big more colour. Leave it to sit for at least 10 minutes before you cut and serve with a salad of lovely green, a spritz of lemon and well seasoned with s & p and a gernerous glug of your best extra virgin olive oil and lunch is ready.

Now, about the decluttering challenge, how are you going? Its not too late to start, you can read about it here. I must admit to dropping the ball a bit with it last week but made up for it over the weekend. More mags, a few old books, some more shoes and I tackled the plastic containers and got rid of the ones without lids.  I need to do the pantry this week, well thats the aim.

Ciao, Jan

Friday, 16 August 2013

Super duper Sausage Rolls

handcrafted rolling pin

Puff pastry, such a wonderful thing isn't it. Can make a boring old thing into a pie or roll delight.  But making it from scratch can be challenging and labour intensive.  I need to run my freezer supply down and try some of this Careme Pastry which is a family run company in the Barossa Valley that uses all local ingredients, using traditional French techniques, do any of you use it? I can't wait to get some.

I've been making sausage rolls for the freezer for those nights when you get home late and need something quick and easy. Pair it up with some defrosted soup and you are on a winner.  I love adding a fair bit of extra vegies to them too, and served with my don't tell them its not pumpkin soup pumpkin soup, you'll be filling the kiddo's with loads of vegies, but that can be our little secret.  

I tend to use a mixture of beef, pork and veal but you could also make them with chicken mince. Try and buy good quality mince, lean is even better, I avoid sausage mince at all costs as I hate to think what has been blended up to make that hideous looking stuff. For an extra easy version, use a good quality sausage, like a pork Cumberland (Aldi do some rippers), and wrap them skin and all in the puff pastry and you will be in sausage roll virtuous heaven.

Sausage Rolls
1 kg mince - I tend to use a mixture of beef and pork or veal but could also make with chicken mince
3/4 cup or so  of half breadcrumbs and half cous cous(I use wholemeal) or just all breadcrumbs
squirt of tomato sauce or chilli sauce or bbq/hp sauce
1 egg
2 carrots 
1 zucchini 
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
handful of parsley
2 rashers of bacon, excess fat removed
s & p, be generous
4-6 sheets of puff pastry, I like to use one with less fat 
1/2 milk for brushing and sealing your rolls

Take puff pastry out of freezer to defrost.  Should only take a few minutes if you seperate them.  In a large bowl put mince, breadcrumbs/cous cous and eggs.  Blitz all the vegies and bacon in the food processor, such a time saver.
 Mix all ingredients really well.  Make the sausage rolls what ever size you want, but I normally get 2 rolls per sheet.  Brush the edges with milk before sealing.  

I re-roll them in the film that is between the frozen pastry sheets and freeze them in freezer bags.  

You can cook them and then freeze but definately a better result freezing in the raw.    When using frozen ones, defrost and then brush with milk and top them with sesame seeds or paprika or poppyseeds or cayenne pepper for a chilli hit.  Bake at 200c until golden brown, approx 20 mins. 

 I love them with my homemade chutney, but you will have to wait until summer to get that recipe....maybe.

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 12 August 2013

August declutter challenge ~ week 2

Home Sweet Home Print
So how did you go last week with the challenge? I'm very proud to say that on Monday I cleaned out the kitchen junk draw, decluttered my 5 items - 6 pairs of shoes, 2 books, 1 childs toy (don't tell her for god sake she'll want it back as she is the queen of hoarding), 1 box of cups & saucers never opened from christmas, 4 magazines. Never to come back!! What I did find helpful and to make it less overwhelming was when I was took me half the day to gear myself up for it....I put the timer on for 10 minutes and went hard!

from this
to only took 10 minutes

And one bag to the op shop, in the car and delivered the next day.  

Just a note about the bags of your things to the oppie, don't give them anything that you yourself wouldn't buy like dirty clothes, your smelly gym shoes, your nan's cookbook from 1968(ok I might buy that), anything stained, they just have to pay to then get rid of it, defeats the purpose really.

On Tuesday I donated linen, towels, beauty products and packaged food to the fire affected family from my daughters school I blogged about on Wednesday. In total 3 garbage bags and 4 shopping bags full, a win for everyone. They were taken to school the next morning, gone! Thursday I put aside 3 pairs of old glasses to take to Specsavers to donate to someone who has bad eyesight like me!  Friday more mags and so by the weekend I felt quite inspired to keep going, my world was feeling lighter!

On Sunday my daughter decided she wanted to give 'to the kids that don't have anything' aka the salvo's. She, on her own, collected enough things for a shopping bag full. I was obviously rubbing off on her!!

Looking forward to this coming week, although i have to work today so I will do one item today, a bag full of old Weigh Watchers magazines and paraphernalia I haven't looked at in ooohh 5 years at least,  and my Monday's 5 tomorrow instead.

How did you go?

Ciao, Jan

Sunday, 11 August 2013

My high horse served up with slow cooked coq au vin

Farmers Closer

As you know I've been on my high horse about buying Australian made, you can read about it here if you missed it. So this week I went to the supermarket and am proud to say brought 98% Australian made and/or owned. No doubt it took longer, but as I walked aisle to aisle searching, I felt that at least I was doing my bit.  Coincidently on the radio on the way, Dick Smith was on the Neil Mitchell program (I am officially an old fart) saying his company is on the brink of closure as the products weren't being supported. You can read more about it here. So the first thing I did at Woolies was search for his tomato sauce and brought a couple of bottles.  Further on my travels I brought his peanut butter too and some more SPC tinned fruit to help their plight.  It will take less time next week as I now know what to look for. What little things could you switch to?  Really think about it. Don't forget about it next week. Its these little things that add up to helping an awesome cause, our country.

So off I went to the local market on Sunday.  I was thrilled to buy not only local produce, but organic as well from "Merri Banks".  

My haul from the farmers market
The farmer had beautiful garlic, celeriac and kale which I will work my meals around for the next few days.  I also got some free range eggs, cauliflour, spuddies, apples and tomatoes.  I can't wait to go back again next weekend, my only gripe would be I wish it was on Saturday then I'd have the whole weekend to work with and not be rushing out the door on Sunday!  

I love having the slow cooker on. It means dinner is taken care of in the morning as it works its magic. After coming home from the market I got to making Coq au vin. It means " chicken cooked in wine" in French but the recipe is chicken pieces cooked in red wine, bacon, mushrooms and optionally garlic. An option I gladly took on. A necessity really.  I used good quality free range chicken legs, already trimmed up. You can also use thighs and wings but please, please don't use breast for this. It is a waste. These long braises are ideal for meat on the bone that will sing after hours of gentle cooking. Breast will just go tough so save them for a quick cooking method. Also, don't be tight with your plonk. The saying that if its not fit to drink then its not fit to cook with should be your motto, and you need to taste the wine so it needs to be drinkable :) The rest of the bottle will be a perfect match with it too.  I'm going to break from tradition and add some kale to this at the last minute and also pair it up with potato and celeriac mash, I can hardly wait.

Coq au vin
8 chicken pieces
2 rashers of bacon, sliced and excess fat removed
8 eshallots, peeled and kept whole
1 eshallot, finely diced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
5 large portebello mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbspn plain flour
S & P
1 cup of red wine
1 litre of water or chicken stock
1/2 bunch kale
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped
3 spuds peeled and chopped

Put the flour and s & p in a freezer bag along with the chicken pieces and give a good shake. This flour will help thicken up the stock. 

In a frypan heat some oil and fry the pieces in batches. You want them to go golden, make sure they sizzle. Add your thyme and a little extra s & p, turning a few times. Put the batches straight into the slow cooker. 

  In the same pan, don't you dare wipe it out as you need all those brown bits for added flavour, heat a few drops more oil and lightly fry your diced eshallot, whole eshallot, garlic, and bacon. After a few minutes, deglaze the pan with the wine, it will bubble up and let it reduce for a few minutes. 

Add this to the slow cooker along with your mushies, bay leaves and stock or water.  Put the lid on, setting on high, and come back in 5-6 hours. Add the sliced kale just before serving. Peel some spuds and a celeriac, boil until tender and mash with a dash of milk, s & p and butter.  Don't forget to fill your wine glass and savour every bite.

Ciao, Jan

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