discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


 slow down and be mindful

reassess priorities 

 have less to get more


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

thrifty, easy muffins for the lunch box

This past Sunday was a gorgeous rainy winters day, perfect to warm up the house with the oven all ready to fill the freezer for the coming school week, or work week for that matter.

I love making these little muffins as they contain a lot of fruit, very little oil and sometimes some vegies and are a little treat for the lunchbox without too much guilt.  

I have people say to me all the time "but I don't have the time" or this gem "I hate cooking" well these are so simple and can be done in minutes, they almost make themselves. 

I like to use a base of grated or microplaned apples and mashed banana but you can also add carrot, zucchini, berries - fresh or frozen, dates, apricots, coconut, choc chips all in small handfuls from this base recipe but not all together!  Walnuts or almonds sprinkled on top are great too but school has a no nut policy, party poopers. Half a strawberry, or a couple of choc chips or a few frozed blueberries in the bottom of the patty pan before you put the mixture on adds a little surprise. 

Sometimes instead of hundreds and thousand sprinkles I will make a mixture of icing sugar and water, a touch of pink food colouring and drizzle this over once they are cool.

They are a great way to use up some cheap fruit or whatevers in your cupboard or freezer without forking out for expensive pre-packaged muffins or muesli bars.  I brought a 6 pkt of apples from aldi for a few $'s this week which will all become cooked treats.  I think this batch of a dozen cost less than $3 and will last over 2 weeks allowing one each weekday, pretty good I'd say, oh and one or two as tasters just out of the oven.  Freeze them to add to the lunchbox and they will be defrosted in time for morning tea, your kids will love you for them.

Apple and banana muffins
2 cups s.r. flour, sifted
1 tspn bicarb soda, sifted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup milk 
2 eggs, whisked
a dash of vanilla essense
2-3 apples, grated with no need to peel
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1 tspn cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 180c.
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a jug mix together all wet ingredients and fruit. Add wet to dry. Don't over mix, doesn't matter if all the flour isn't perfectly incorporated.
Perfect for little fingers to squelch

Line a muffin tray with patty pans. Use an icecream scoop to place dough into patties. Top with sprinkles if using them. Bake for approx 25 minutes.

Do you have any little cakes or slices you bake for the freezer? Would love to hear if you do.  I'm always on the look out for new things to bake.

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 29 July 2013

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes, what are they? Well my friends they are an amazingly tasty winter bulb that aren't very well know, so maybe its my own little secret veg.  It is actually a brother of the sunflower and not from Jerusalem nor is it related to an artichoke.  They are very high in iron and reputed to be great for diabetics as it doesn't change blood sugar levels but is as filling as a potato.  The plant produces a tall sunflower stem, well actually it grows up to 10 foot tall but if you have a little piece of turf that gets some sun and isn't used for anything else, give these treasures a go.  
The pretty daisy like flowers
They look a bit like ginger when harvested, but beware, they can overtake a vegie patch like a weed so an area used for nothing else is best.  We have them down the side of the house out of harms way.  They have amazingly good yields but unfortunately you can't eat a hell of a lot of them at once as they cause flatulence and tummy pain if you over indulge.  Which is a damn shame as I just love them.  But once bitten, twice shy.

When cooking they take some work peeling. If I was roasting them I usually just wash well and rub the skin with a kitchen scourer.  For this soup I was quite ruthless and did waste alot, but we had buckets of them to use up. I've done them roasted in garlic and butter but last night made a delicious soup, a true revelation.

Jerusalem Artichoke soup
a good big knob of butter and a slug of evoo
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
1-2 bay leaves
approx 1kg of Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and roughly chopped
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 litres of vegie or chicken stock
garnishes: light or full fat thickened cream, croutons, crispy bacon, tin of crab meat, chopped parsley * roast the bacon and croutons on the same tray in the oven.

In a large pot gently heat the butter and evoo, add garlic, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, s & p and sweat for 10-15 minutes until tender. 

Add parsley stalks, artichokes, potatoes and stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Skim off any scum that comes to the surface.  Blend with a stick blender.  Check seasoning.  You may need to take off and reserve some of the liquid and just see how thick it is. Better to add more liquid to thin it down than the other way around.  

Another thing to bare in mind is the artichokes once peeled go brown quite quickly. So either peel them straight away and use or if you are delayed even 5 minutes, put them into a bowl of water with half a lemon squeezed into it to help stop the oxidization process.  Serve the garnishes in little bowls on the table and let each person add as much or as little as needed.  This soup has the most unusually delicious earthy, nutty flavour, a real treat we hopefully didn't over indulge in!!

The much anticipated garnishes made this soup sing, sorry
the pics are a bit dark, and not the best, I get carried away wanting to
eat and almost forget to take the pic and too impatient to play
around with lighting!!

In a few days when I'm game to have another bowl of my freezer stash, I'm trying it with a dash of cream and chopped walnuts, I think it will work a treat.

Ciao Jan

Sunday, 28 July 2013

No knead bread

I've got an addiction....bread baking, well mainly ciabatta for the past few weeks but today I'm venturing into unchartered territory, 5 minute bread or no knead bread. So yesterday I mixed the flour, salt, yeast and water together and today I'm baking it. I brought myself a camp oven to do it in, and even lashed out on some lovely German grainy flour....shame its not calorie free!! There should be a rule that home made shouldn't carry any calories don't you think!! 
This recipe if from a friend but is also the same as 5 minute bread I had read about here It is best to make this dough the afternoon or night before you need it.  I jumped out of bed and couldn't wait to get the oven fired up.

No knead bread
3 cups all purpose flour or grain flour
1/4 tspn dried yeast
1 tspn salt
1 1/2 cups of water

Mix the dry ingredients well with your fingers. I'm using Lauchke German Grain bread mix from Coles which has the salt added so be careful if using a bread mix not to double up the salt.  But I might look online for a good supplier of some organic grainy delights.  Add water, you may need more or less, but the end result should be sticky and moist. Mix with your hand until all ingredients are well incorporated.  This should take less than a minute. Cover the bowl with glad wrap and leave on the bench overnight to prove.  It will puff up and expand.  I kept checking mine, coaxing it along, I didn't want a failure!

This is before proving the dough

The next morning, with much anticipation, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead it until it is smooth and comes together into a tight ball with a smooth top and a folded bottom, should only take 1 minute, no more. Place onto a clean tea towel, just to help you carry it over to the oven. *NB since originally writing this, I no longer use the teatowel. All you really need to do is to flour the surface well and place the dough 'right side up' to go into the campoven once it has had the 15 minute heating up* Let it rest for at least 15 minutes during which time you can turn the oven on to 260c and put the camp oven in with the lid on.  There is no need to grease the camp oven. Once it is very hot, place a disc of baking paper in the bottom (you can re use this disc of baking paper for many more bakes, just leave it in the campoven) and pop your dough on top, smooth side up. Grab some scissors and snip the top into a cross or 5 long slits, or you could use a sharp knife. This will give you a nice rustic look.  Put lid back on and back into the oven for 30 minutes.  After the 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 200c, take the lid off and bake for a further 15-30 minutes, depending on your oven really.  Place onto wire rack and I dare you to leave it for an hour to cool down.  

Sorry this isn't the best quality photo

Nom nom nom
I was so thrilled with this loaf, I'm making a double batch again today. I really can't believe it is this easy and I am well and truly hooked.  This loaf size will feed 4 greedy guests for lunch with soup or as sandwiches. We had it for breakfast and I'm eyeing off another slice as I type.....

Do any of you make bread? I'm curious to know any flours you might use or different techniques you might have for an easy, rewarding loaf.

*One more note, I now make this as a double batch so 6 cups of flour, 1/2 a tspn of yeast and around 3-4 cups of water, depends on the flour and the day.  The main thing to remember when mixing is to incorporate the flour and yeast first, then add the water.  You are after a moist mix where all the flour is well mixed in with the water, double checking down the bottom of the bowl you are mixing in, that all the flour is mixed.  I'm still using the Lauchke bread mix, but have been buying the 5kg multigrain, so no need to add the salt as its already in the mix.  It never fails me and I love the texture and crusty crust.  This larger quantity comes out as a gorgeous much larger loaf that is better suited to making sandwiches and it lasts us for 2 days.

Ciao Jan x

*update - 27/04/15 I now have perfected my recipe and use half plain flour and half Laucke soy and linseed bread mix.  I double the original recipe to create a bigger loaf.  I haven't had one failure with this bread - I'd highly recommend you give it a try if you are new to bread baking.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

My solo adventure

I have just returned from an adventure, a solo one which involved lots and lots of eating and drinking….and silence. It doesn’t matter why or how it happened, except to say I have a wonderful husband,  but it did happen and I think it’s the first time in my life that I had done anything like this on my own.  

I must admit, I was a little scared, 4 days and 3 nights….on my own. But I had lots planned- walks, cafes, reading and gazing into the distance.  I was craving some R & R and the added thrill of eating my way through my days, no scales, no counting calories, no guilt!

So off I set, but before I got to my destination, I couldn’t let hypoglycemia hit, so to be sure I stopped off at the Brewery at Forrest. 

What a great spot.  I settled on a local Brown Magpie Pinot Gris and a bowl of Seafood Chowder to warm me up, my spirits had begun to lift!

Once I stocked up on some supplies, purely for research purposes, I pumped up my Fleetwood Mac cd in the car stereo for the windy ride ahead.

The further I got into the Otways, I was enveloped in misty rain and fog and it was almost eerie, and as I neared my place of solace, Apollo Bay, I saw the biggest rainbow appear. I'm sure its because I live with a fairy, rainbow loving 6 year old girlie girl that I noticed it-  a sure sign of the coming days!!

I find my digs, just out of The Bay, unpack the car and head back into town for some supplies before I settle in for the night.  

Seriously, how good is the view!!!
A girl could get use to this.
A wine at the top pub first (or was it the bottom pub I get confused) then on to the supermarket for my dinner....salami, cheese, olives, beetroot dip and bikkies, and a little more wine, the perfect ending to a lovely day.

I'm an early bird and true to form I woke early and took a long walk along the beach. I was working up an appetite. I had a girlfriend coming for the day and we were heading to Chris's at Beacons Point for lunch. I had been dying to go there for years so was saving myself!

A gorgeous morning walk along the beach at Marengo
Chris's at Beacon Point,, is high on the hills over looking Apollo Bay and Skene's Creek and it didn't disappoint. The views are spectacular to say the least and I had a feeling lunch was going to be wonderful, especially when the waitress offered us a shot of Ouzo and some complimentary olives to start off proceedings.  My girlfriend and I shared Fried local Calamari with the tastiest tartare sauce I think I've ever eaten, a long way from the jarred Masterfoods variety let me tell you.

So many delicious things to try but I eventually decided on the freshly caught Blue Eye Cod, pan seared served on wilted spinach, tomato, onion and feta, skordalia and olive tapenade. The dish was cooked to perfection.  

I don't usually care for dessert, I'm a savoury girl, but I'm a sucker for a crumble and settled on the apple and quince crumble with vanilla creme anglaise, and my girlfriend had the creme brulee which had the traditional crunchy toffee - both to die for!

I didn't even have dinner that night I was so contented. A really wonderful way to spend quite a few hours, great food and wine, great company. I was feeling truly blessed to have this opportunity.

Next morning another beautiful day awaited me, no sign of the forecast of rain and storms.

So another big walk, after a breakfast of bacon and eggs at Bay leaf cafe, home to shower and get ready for lunch. I had been asking around and decided I wanted a view to go down with my wine so upstairs to La Bimba it was.  They had lots of truffles from a farm in the Otways on the menu but I really felt like seafood, so had the fettucini marinara.

A walk around the harbour helped my delicious lunch go down, unfortunately the beach at Apollo Bay was in high tide so no chance of getting my feet wet. The yachts were a great second, my hubby and I love sailing and I was feeling homesick for my family. Should I stay or should I go? I had until tomorrow when I would head home, so I decided I'd have a big glass of wine in my trackie back at my accommodation so I couldn't drive, decision made!! Another night of no dinner.

My last supper in the bay was a gorgeous breakfast of eggs florentine at Cafe 153 with the most perfectly cooked poached eggs, buttery spinach, avocado and smoked salmon, what a way to end a wonderful few days away.

A friend very kindly and generously allowed me to house sit while he was away, but he owns very good accommodation that we have been staying at in Apollo Bay for a number of years now if you ever want to go and see for yourself what a little gem this area really is
I am so relaxed I may not even have a pulse......

ciao Jan

Saturday, 20 July 2013

A most memorable morning

Earlier this week I was in Melbourne, but unfortunately only had just under 3 hours to be unleashed in the city before heading for the train home.  I love the city, if I was to move back tomorrow it is where I'd want to live, no suburbia for me - the hussell and bussell, so many cafes, restaurants and different walks of life is where its at.

Instead of venturing somewhere new, I found myself heading for my 2 favourite spots, guaranteed never to disappoint. The first is a Melbourne institution, a place that has been blogged to death no doubt, Pellegrinis Espresso Bar.

Serving Italian classics crafted by the nonnas in the kitchen, it breaths old school Italian cool.  I go for the pure entertainment value mostly and a quick coffee at the bar, and watch the floor show that is the waiters at work.

Next stop is not too far further down Bourke Street, Grossi Florentino's for some breakfast.  

I have eaten here numerous times and I must admit to being smitten.  Not just because of the owner Guy Grossi, although he is a draw card, it is the total experience that has me sucked in.  The attentive staff, the warm ambiance and of course the food.  I decided on something left of centre  not your normal breakfast; soft polenta with a mushroom ragu and a poached egg on top. It was deep and rich in flavour, the egg runny and oozing, a taste sensation.  I was full to pussies bow and happy as a pig in the proverbial for my train ride home.

The menu

Mushroom ragu
1/4 cup evoo and a knob of butter
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
some fresh thyme, maybe the leaves off 3-4 sticks
500g of mixed mushrooms, button, porcini, swiss browns, portabello, whatever you can get your hands on.  If using porcini, use the water used to reconstitute them also.
100ml marsala
1 litre of chicken stock
Heat oil & butter in a large frypan or pot that will hold the liquid required. Sautee the onion and garlic quickly, add the mushrooms and thyme and once the mushrooms have some colour add the marsala and stock. Simmer until reduced by 1/3 or so and mushrooms are still tender. You may need to thicken it with a roux ( softened butter mixed with plain flour). Check seasoning.
Great on pappardelle pasta, or with polenta like my breakfast dish or even as a topping for a steak or chicken breast.

Ciao, Jan

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

This not so glamorous life

Beautiful Kitchen, enjoy your meal!!
Given to my by a dear friend
and its sentiment rings true in my kitchen
I had someone ask me a few months ago what I do for a living….I hate this question for a few reasons.   It makes me feel less than, ashamed of the answer, making up excuses for this life I’m living. I am, apart from a casual shift here and there, a full time stay at home mum.  It has become full time due to illness but I don’t go around shouting this from the roof tops, although I will be now on my blog!!  

At the beginning I really struggled with it, fought it to be truthful, as I could find worth in a paid job and title. Who would be satisfied just staying at home, boring!!  I felt cold and sweating just thinking about how I would fill my days.  But it occurred to me the other day that something is changing in me. I am actually, after 7 months, dare I say it, enjoying it. I’m filling my day with school drop off and pick up where I get to talk to my only child about her day, no need to rush.  I cook, clean, read, walk the dog, spend time on the computer, rest without guilt and I’m feeling for the first time ever, content and happy with my lot, even though I am not running on all cylinders.

A mothers role has turned into such a sham, we all believe we have to be running around twisting ourselves in half to do it all, to have it all, and for what? For whose standard, society, the Jones – who the hell are they I’d like to know, they have a lot to answer for!!  When was the last time you just stopped…took a breath….and listened to yourself? Too scared of the answer? Why are we all chasing this happiness and never finding it? I think the answer is in slowing down, getting back to basics and connecting with our friends, families and homes.

I’ve been reading a lovely blog called down---to---earth by a lady called Rhonda. I stumbled across it a few months ago when I was in a panic about how I could learn to enjoy this simple life I needed due to a lack of finances.  What a find.  I don’t adhere to all she speaks of, I haven’t yet made my own laundry powder and I won’t probably ever knit a kitchen wash cloth, but her underlying message is about sustainable living in your home and garden which leads to contentment.  I  still have a long way to go on my journey and for the first time in a long time I’m excited.

Sorry, no recipe today but I’ll leave you with a picture of one of my favourite things…..

ciao, Jan

Monday, 15 July 2013

Super Chicken

Sussex chickens I'd love for our yard,
one day soon
How amazing are chickens? I've got a dream to have some free ranging in our yard in the next year or so. We are in the middle of finishing off a backyard reno so not really the right time but it will happen.  I was lucky enough to see a baby chicken hatch at fun4kids childrens festival in the school holidays and it almost brought a tear to my eye, amazing.
Here he his working his way
 into the world
It could seem in bad taste that I talk and show pictures of chickens in a blog that is to be about roast chicken, but we can't live in denial. Its the way things are. I'm not that keen on thinking too much about it but if I am going to eat chicken I want it to have had the best life possible, so I'm free range all the way.  If you are someone who likes the pre-cooked chickens from the supermarket, or buys 2 for 1 for $5.99,  my one wish would be you compare the taste to a free range chicken. Too expensive I hear some of you say, well yes they are but they need space to roam, good quality feed to eat, care is what you are paying for and in turn that creates better flavour.  Those cheap chickens are squashed into cages on top of each other, nothing to scratch up like grass or worms, no fresh air and are pumped full of hormones and water and is that really what you want to be eating? Just some food for thought.....

So, unless you are vegetarian, many of us eat chicken a few times a week.  The thing I love most about a free range roast chicken is you not only get the juiciest and tastiest chicken as it’s cooked on the bone, it lasts our family for 2 dinners making an $11 bird a bargain.  

The beauty about a roast chicken is you can use it for so many different dishes and put an assortment of different flavours on it. But for this beauty, its a traditional roast dinner with gravy and roasted vegies I'm chasing.

I roast all my meat over a wire rack with water in the bottom. This is so the fat and any juices collect in the water as it reduces,  steams and creates its own lovely gravy to be thickened once the fat has been skimmed off. I use a jug to collect the juices and put in the freezer for 30 mins. The fat rises to the top and solidifies so is easy to take off.

Take your bird and pat it dry with some paper towel. Remove any excess fat around the opening of the carcass.  I use herbs and garlic and/or an onion to stuff the chicken with to add flavour not to eat.  For this one I used rosemary, sage, mint, parsley stalks and 4 cloves of garlic. Dose with a good amount of sea salt, pepper and a light dusting of sweet smoked paprika.  A little tip with the paprika is to use a tea strainer to get it really finely sprinkled.  It is more for the added colour it gives than flavour. Drizzle with a little evoo and put into 180c oven for around 2 hours. 

Use a meat thermometer if you are unsure, it should read around 90c. I pull the drumstick away from the carcass slightly to check the meat is cooked closest to the bone, the last thing you want is raw chicken.  The meat near the bone will still be slightly dark red, due more to the colour of the dark meat not from blood when its cooked.

Rest your chicken on a tray for at least 30 mins covering with foil, collect any juices to add to the gravy.  The juices should be clear and not bloody, if it is bloody after the first few minutes of resting, put it back in the oven for another 10 mins or so. And that’s your chook cooked!!

Yes he is missing a leg, I keep forgetting to take
the finish photos,
too eager to get eating!!!
Ciao, Jan

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Hail Caesar

Hands up if you don't own a salad spinner? Don't even know what it is? This is disastrous you know, go out immediately and get one, your salads will thank you and so will your hip pocket as your lettuces and herbs will last so much longer if you use one. They get so much excess water out of your greens which will keep them for days longer in your crisper.

Cos lettuce from the garden

So now we are over that hurdle, Caesar salad, one of my favourites but it can be done so terribly that I rarely order it out due to being constantly disappointed....over cooked black hard boiled egg, watery under cooked poached egg, no egg, too much dressing, watery dressing, no dressing, soggy croutons, packet pre-grated parmesan cheese that isn't really parmesan cheese, grated cheddar cheese, dried out bacon, cheap anchovies are some of the crimes committed against poor old Caesar.  I'm here to share with you my tasty version.

So you all know how to poach an egg from my older post "the quickest dinner for one". But you can do 4 minute soft boiled eggs (eggs in cold water, into a pot, once reaches boil time 4 mins and then cool under cold water to stop cooking). Pop your oven on to 200c while you are at it too. You can poach the eggs in advance if it helps during the dinner frenzy, just gently put them on kitchen paper and set aside in the fridge until you need them, and you can get everything else prepared before hand too, just don't, and I mean really don't put the dressing anywhere near the lettuce until you are about to eat it, no limp Caesars wanted.  The other ingredients you will need for 4 people is:

1 good sized cos lettuce or maybe 2 if you are serving this salad in a large bowl communal style
2 rashers of bacon, cut into slices
4 poached eggs
2 tbspns best foods mayonnaise (The BEST mayo!!) or whole egg mayonnaise 
1-2 tbspns lemon juice or apple cider vinegar 
1 large good quality anchovy fillet like Delicius, finely chopped, and some for the table
Sea salt & pepper, lots of cracked pepper
3-4 sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley
2 slices of ciabatta bread or sour dough, cut into cubes, leave the crusts on
1 clove of garlic slice in half
1/2 cup or so of peeled/shaved parmesan, using your veggie peeler

Place bread in a bowl and drizzle with a little evoo, sea salt and pepper.  When the oven is hot, put the bacon onto a tray and put in the oven, 10 mins later add the bread cubes, keep an eye on them so they don't burn, around 7-10 minutes.  Shaking them every few minutes to get evenly browned.

In a jar large enough to take 1 cup of liquid, put in mayonnaise, lemon juice, S & P, parsley and anchovy and give a really good shake, check for tartness and seasoning, may need more lemon or mayonnaise.  If you are watching your calories substitute low fat sour cream for all or half the mayonnaise, but hold back on as much lemon juice.  Try and avoid low fat mayo's, they really are nasty, better to use less of a better quality whole egg one than more of  a crap, over processed, tasteless low fat one.

Take bacon and croutons out of oven and allow to cool.
Take any tough stalky centres out of the cos leaf and wash, spin thoroughly in your new lettuce spinner.  Slice the leaves into 1 cm strips.
In a large bowl place the cos, bacon, croutons, half the parmesan and just before serving add some of the dressing, around 3 tbspns, and gently toss until all is nicely coated but not dripping in dressing, you may need more or less.
We use Millel parmesan blocks to support hubbies work and its yummy too

If serving out on 4 plates, evenly distribute the salad, top with poached egg, and garnish with parmesan shavings, cracked pepper on the egg.  Make sure you can see some croutons and bacon just so its appealing to the eye. I'm not a mad anchovy person so I always put the anchovy jar on the table for people to help themselves.  This is also great served in a large bowl on the table, just slice the eggs in half.  You can also take this to a dinner party or bbq but assemble it there, you won't be sorry for the hassell.  Hail Caesar!!

 We had roasted chicken drummies and spuddies with ours, delicious!!! And can I just add for the the record, our 6 yr old ate 3 anchovies!!! Her dad is way chuffed.

If you give it a go or want any other tips let me know, I love getting your comments.

Ciao, Jan
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