discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Friday, 29 November 2013

A country girl in the city and the end of our ditch the credit card month

I'm not long back from a trip to beautiful Melbourne.  I had a couple of doctor's appointments and was able to do them over a few days, thanks to the hospitality of some dear friends and family.  So here is a quick run down on the photos.  The one above is of my homemade sandwich for the train ride.  Beats the hell out of a microwave not really chicken, chicken roll just quietly!
A bottle of special bubbles and a shared meal cooked by the birthday boy no less, was a lovely night in.

Although it was fabulous to catch up with friends, the highlight was going to La Manna , right up my ally!! These photos don't do it justice.  It's huge! All Australian grown fresh produce and aisle after blissful aisle of treasures.  They are giving the 2 big boys a run for their money and I love that.  I could have spent hours here, and a small fortune but I only had a small suitcase, will know better next time ; ) I got some muscovato brown sugar, almond & chia spread (can't wait to try that combo!! Its a peanut butter substitute), extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and mung beans for sprouting which were a pressie for hubby. Helps to have a partner in crime! 

An appointment in the city lead me past my favourite place to go, Grossi Florentino.  Anyone who knows me, knows I am smitten with this place.  I know I should branch out, but this morning I was after familiar and it helped it was close to where I needed to be.  I had already had a light breakfast but had room for more, and their Dr Marty's Crumpets with wild honeycomb and butter won me over.  The honeycomb pictured below was a lovely touch.

Time for some R & R in Treasury Gardens and a laze in the sun.  I loved seeing the Rosemary hedge, Melbourne surely has foragers that would benefit from this green mile!
Amongst the appointments, I was thrilled to catch up with a dear old friend whom I haven't seen for over 15 years.  Life drifted us apart, but it has put us back together again.  She found me through this blog. It was pure serendipity, and our friendship has been well and truly rekindled. 

As much as I love the city and all it offers, its lovely to be home to my family.  Time to get back into the routine that I love and feel secure with. 

On to pressing issues.  It's here, the final days of the no credit card for November challenge.  I'm so pleased with the result as now leading into this christmas season of over indulgence and spending, and a trip to the big smoke full of temptation that was avoided, I feel for the first time, in control and out of credit card debt for this month.  How did you go with the challenge?  What I've learned from this month's challenge is that it is just a knee jerk reaction to hand over my credit card instead of using my eftpos/debit card to make my bank balance look better for a short while.  Its a false security.  It's a habit I now hope I will kick and leave the credit cards for real emergency and now concentrate on building up an emergency cash fund in my savings account.  No mean feet on one income but I think with planning and cooking from scratch and turning a blind eye to the materialistic madness that has some how taken over our society, especially at christmas, I can stand firm.

This coming Monday marks the start of the Decluttering for December Challenge.  I'd love you to join me.  I will also be posting a couple of recipes for the things I love to make for my friends and family at this giving time of year.  I think gifts of the homemade variety are becoming more appreciated and cherished.  This personal touch is usually met with joy for both the giver and the receiver as it shows you have taken time to provide that combination of your skills and time, mixed with a spoon full of love that will hopefully be unforgettable.

So tell me, do you make any presents to give at christmas?  Do you even like christmas? 

I hope the next month isn't as busy as it usually is and you take the time to take a breath and relax with family and friends because that is really all we are chasing, wouldn't you agree?

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 25 November 2013

Decluttering for December

Its on again, the Decluttering challenge.  Why? Well I was looking in some places I had decluttered in the August challenge and some of them are looking like a dogs breakfast.  Where does this stuff come from! It has to go.  I tend to stick to this challenge if I'm accountable on my blog so I'm here to stay on track and hopefully to motivate someone else to do the same.  Yes it is December, and yes people are busy, but it's honestly barely 5 minutes a day.  Set the timer if you don't believe me.

Each Monday during December, select five items to declutter and place them
into one of 3 boxes - bin, op shop or family/give to friends.  If you want you can have a pile for ebay or gumtree too, up to you. I'm not as I don't want it hanging round nor do I want even more time on the computer :)  

Then, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, select one item a day and add it to your boxes.  It could be a pile of magazines as one 'item', don't just move one mag at a time!  Same as a draw or a cupboard may be one thing if you have lots you want to get through.  Continue this rotation until the last day of December. As I said, set the timer and go hard for the time you allocate. 

The areas I personally want to tackle are:
1. The amount of my daughters art work I have stashed.  A thing that I'm planning to do with the precious artwork, is to take a photo of it as I've got such a sentimental streak I hoard this stuff like a mad woman.  But will she really want to go through the boxes when she gets older, I don't think so.  The problem for me is the art work symbolises steps in her development, but a scribble on a page at aged 2 isn't really worth clogging up my life, a picture stored on the computer will be perfect.
2.  THE kitchen junk draw.  I did this in August and I'm afraid it is back, not as bad as before, but its slowly getting out of hand again.
3. The plastics cupboard.  Dear Lord, this stuff just multiplies on its own, but never bares the right lid!
4. The car.  Enough said.
5.  The front of the fridge, I bet your's is the same.  I can't see the actual fridge from all the photos, magnets, artwork and more artwork and post it notes.
So 4 weeks, 5 areas. Easy...yeah right!

The questions I will be asking myself if I feel stuck and feel too attached will be:
Do I love this?
Do I really need this? When was the last time you used it?
and this one I love
If the house was on fire would you grab this?

The next day - the weekend- you can take your boxes to the op shop bin or where they have to go, making sure you come home with empty bags/boxes.  And you should have some more time for this.....

"Don't let your possessions overwhelm or control you.
After all, you're really their custodian, not their owner.
Look at them differently.
You can't take any of them with you.
So only keep things that are useful or beautiful.
Live simply."

By Patrick Lindsay
I'm away for most of this week, hence why this post is early, but it gives you time to prepare yourself!!
I hope some of you come along for the ride :D

Ciao, Jan

Friday, 22 November 2013

Week 3 of the ditch your credit card challenge and my light bulb moment

I've been so busy baking, knitting, living and reading other blogs I totally forgot about the credit card challenge.  I have a couple of confessions to make today.  First confession, my main credit card, the one that usually has the consumer sins on it, is still in zero balance. I can't tell you how satisfied I feel.  Its hardly a confession I know, but it truly is amazing to me still, how little you really need when you stop all the wants. Second confession, I didn't tell my hubby about the challenge ( I think he thinks I'm going through a midlife crisis) so there was a bill during the week for some new tyres on his card, but it was for safety's sake.

I'd like to leave you with a post from Rhonda's blog Down to earth.  It is a post from 2007 but I read it for the first time this week.  I'm not ashamed to tell you I teared up reading it.  It was like watching an episode of Oprah and all her talk of 'the light bulb moment'.  I feel like I've been given permission to live the life I've been dreaming of for years.  I've never been so content.  There are days that I try fighting this simpler life due to the media, wants of my child, other people dressed up for work and the like, but its when I just let myself be and go with the flow of this life that I'm really truly at peace with myself and my lot in life.  I feel so lucky.  It helps that I'm just so in love with my kitchen and all the new things I'm desperate to try making for the first time, I feel like there isn't enough hours in the day!  I've been searching my whole life, looking for what my passion could possibly be.  I've finally found it.  I'm so silly, it was here with me all the time.  I was just too busy to see it.
Ciao, Jan

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Marmalade cupcakes

Everyone is complaining about the cold snap we are having, with only 9 days til summer.  Today I'm sitting here typing with the heater on, with the sound of wind and rain swirling around outside.  I love it.  Any excuse to have the oven on and the slow cooker in use makes me happy.  I really don't care much for the heat, anything over 28c and I'm inside with the air con pumping, so precious.

I've got oranges galore from my organic fruit box from Port Fairy Organic delivery on Tuesday and I've got a family christmas bbq (no denying the c word any more).  I just adore this moist orange cake, it never fails me but I thought I'd shake things up and make some cup cakes.  It really is the easiest recipe, the hardest part is measuring the flour without spilling any! I really need to invest in a few large tubs for my flour, but my old large coffee jars passed on to me just remind me of my nan everytime I use them so for now they are staying.  I added a tablespoon of marmalade to the orange cake recipe just to echo that orange flavour even more.

It was the perfect way to spend a rainy, miserable day in front of the heater. I really should start my Christmas shopping list...have you started yours? Don't tell me you are one of those that have already finished? Could you come and do mine...pretty please, with icing sugar on top? 

Ciao, Jan

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

I can't believe its not butter, butter chicken

Notice anything different? Take a closer look...See it? I've found PicMonkey....I'm thrilled and devastated all at the same time.  Why? Well I'm thrilled to have some filters for my pictures and its cool to add a watermark to my photos...but the time people, the time I'm spending on the computer before I found this was enough, but now.  I feel I'm doomed!!! I'm sure once the novelty wears off, it will be watermark only but dear husband might divorce me.
I'm a slow cooker junkie, such a clever invention and a dream for a busy person.  Although I'm not that busy working out of the home, you might be surprised to know I don't like to spend hours in the kitchen working on one dish. Lots of different things yes, some time in the morning and some time in the afternoon but not all at once, so the slow cooker gets a workout in our house.  I made this bastardised version of butter chicken with resounding success.  This is a typical example of me taking an idea of a recipe and changing it to suit my desire at the time.  There is no butter in this chicken nor is there any cream, but feel free to add some.

I can't believe its not butter, butter chicken
for the slow cooker:
1kg of chicken thigh, diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & bashed
1 onion finely diced or blitzed in food processor
1 tspn ground cumin
1 tspn ground coriander
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn garam masala 
1/2 tspn chilli powder
1/2 tspn smoked paprika
1 jar of tomato passata
1 tbsp tomato puree
200mls chicken stock approx, I used up some from the freezer stores

for the rice:
2 cups of basmati rice, well rinsed
1 clove of garlic, bashed
1 or 2 parsley stalks
1 or 2 coriander root or stem
1/2 a lemon
you can add some saffron or tumeric to make it a pretty yellow colour but its not a must

to garnish:
fresh coriander, mint and parsley roughly chopped
roughly chopped almonds or flaked if you have them but toast them before hand
natural yoghurt

I just put everything that's for the slow cooker in and pop the lid on, with it set on high.  You need it on high for around 4 hours so if you plan on going to work or heading out for the day, make it first thing and put the setting on low.  Some worry about using slow cookers but honestly they are just the same as using a casserole dish in the oven, but for a lower temperature for a longer amount of time.  I've gotten quite cheeky lately, I'm not even browning the meat before hand.  You really should as it adds flavour but I'm a rebel. Perfect example is my bolognaise, it rocks the slow cooker, even without browning the mince....I know, amazing! Revolutionary! Not to mention time saver!  I don't own a dishwasher (don't even go there) so any time I can save my manicure I'm down with it.
this is one of my frozen chicken stock packages
With the rice, just bang it all in a medium sized saucepan, cover with cold water (approx 4-5 cups if you need a guide) and boil until just under cooked, around 6 minutes timed once it reaches the boil.  It needs to be under cooked as its going in the slow cooker a little down the track.

I love this paprika and the tins are cute too
After around 4 hours, your sauce should be reduced slightly and the chicken happily cooked, if not falling apart.  Now is when you might add 1/2 a cup of cream.  I then put a layer of silverbeet down on top of the chicken (this is an option, we have so much of it at the moment and by layering it in large pieces I can pick it out for the 6 yr old with an aversion to it) and the rice on top of that and setting onto low for another hour or so.  

I had some pizza dough in the freezer that I took out around lunchtime.  It was perfect just rolled out and drizzled with some garlic infused olive oil, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and baked in a hot oven for 10 minutes or so.  It was just the thing to have with this to mop up the chicken and rice.  A dollop of natural yoghurt, some hot chilli sauce(like sambal oelek if you like some heat), a squeeze of lemon and a scattering of fresh herbs was just the accompaniment to make this dish sing.

I love getting your comments, and hearing what you have to say but it seems very quiet out there....Hello? : ) Do you use the slow cooker? Have a fav recipe?
Ciao, Jan

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

a pretty berry yoghurt cheesecake

I have a confession to make. I have a new foodie crush and its a girl.  I'm still crushing on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and to a lesser extent Guy Grossi, Jamie, Maggie Beer and Nigella, but after reading her laugh out loud book and nodding my head at her foodie stories, I've now got a crush on the blog of Not Quite Nigella.  I had read Lorraine's blog a few times before reading her book but I have a daily addiction now.  Lucky for me, she blogs full time and daily.  The photograpy is artistically beautiful, the stories endearing, and with recipes that make you weep with the pure cleverness, skill and expertise. I'm afraid I'm smitten.

This cheesecake recipe is a mixture of the NQN recipe for a strawberry cheesecake with my own personal spin. I used a different jam, Bonne Maman fruits of the forest conserve (my favourite French jam) and for the base  I used my anzac slice recipe with pretty good results.  I also used Jalna bio-dynamic organic whole milk yoghurt and lite philly cream cheese.  I was nervous making this, it looked very technical but I followed the recipe step by delicate step.  I was so thrilled with the result and it really wasn't as hard as I first thought.  The chevron jammy pattern worked out perfectly.  I'm a bit of a follow my nose kind of cook,  truth be told.  I've always followed my instincts rather than follow a recipe to the letter.  Its only been these last few months that I've started making dessert, cakes and breads that I'm following recipes, and you can see from this one I can't help but bend the rules a little. 

In the past, I've always been the first to order the birthday cake for a special occasion thinking I could never bake a cake, especially a iced, fancy one. But come to think of it, I'd never really tried. What I'm learning is you don't have to stay defined by what you previously pegged yourself as.  I always just thought I couldn't bake so I never did.  Its like I've opened Pandora's box now though! Pass me the beaters and crank that oven up.  The only problem is, I'm now totally and utterly head over heels, hooked on baking, and sweet treats are becoming a daily indulgence.  I just hope my family and friends don't start avoiding me as I'm forever trying to off load my new vice as my freezer is already stocked with these goodies....."Here she comes again...." 

I'm sorry I've been lazy and not transcribed the recipe for you.  I had to share some pictures of the steps though.  I want you to all click on the link above to the recipe and have a look at this blog for yourself.  Be warned though, Not Quite Nigella is as good as her cooking diva name sake.

After waiting 3 hours for it to be set, I got my large cheffy knife, ran it under hot water and was ready to start slicing.  And how was it? Well I have to be honest, next time I make it I will do the base the same as the original recipe on NQN.  I think there was maybe a little too much going on in my mouth.  It definately benefited from a bit more jam added when plated up, and what sweet delight doesn't benefit from a cup of tea to team it perfectly.

If you really are an insatiable foodie like me, can talk with a mouth full of marbles under water about the topic, you really should grab a copy of the book 'Not quite Nigella' by Lorraine Elliot, it really makes you feel like you aren't alone with our love of good food and company.  I'd love to offer to send mine but I'm keeping it to read again and again.  A big thank you to Marianna 

Do you have a foodie crush? Who would you love to have dinner with if you had the chance? You know who would be on my list!
I can't wait to tackle the next recipe I find...but I might just wait a few days as my jeans really are getting tight, but its been worth every inch of tight denim.

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 18 November 2013

The weekend wrap and my first rally

It was a beautiful weekend in my parts, sun was shining and the kitchen was kept busy with lots coming in from the garden.  So I thought I'd just show you some pictures of the goings on....
My girl had lots of fun making these little pizzas with my christmas cookie cutters....ham cheese and prawn if you don't mind!
Potato & Rosemary for the grown ups
Free-range roasted chicken (yep thats butter under the skin, diet starts tomorrow!)
An easy herb 'pesto' although there is no cheese, just herbs (coriander, mint,parsley), walnuts, sunflower kernels, s & p, evoo and lemon juice
This pesto is a perfect addition to this broadbean, silverbeet and feta frittata.  We have silverbeet coming out of our you know where, but I love it put through its paces.  I just use it where you might find spinach in a dish.  For this frittata, take 6-7 freerange eggs, a good dollop of pesto and whisk together with a few slurps of soy milk, or regular milk, lets say 1/3 of a cup
gently steam 5 or 6 silverbeet with the stalks removed and roughly chopped  with the broadies for around 3 minutes.  Wring out any excess water and allow to cool slightly before folding through your eggy mixture along with some salt and pepper, don't be stingy
Grease a flan dish and pour in egg mixture and dot with a good feta.  I used this local Apostle Whey feta from a producer an hour away

A perfect match for my chutney

Away from the kitchen, Sunday was national day of climate change action and there was a group action in my home town.  I went with my daughter and a friend to show our support but was disappointed that there was only a small group of 50 or so considering our towns population of over 30,000 people.  But, from little things big things grow.
This ladies sign is 14 years old and was made for a World summit rally all those years ago
Everyone was encouraged to wear hot summer colours
sign the petition

Advance Australia fair!

While we are on the sustainablity mantra, I brought a box of new loo paper which arrived last week.  I'm here to tell you I'm really impressed. The company is called Greencane.  It is made from the residue left over from sugar extraction, so aims to minimize deforestation and is made to world standard eco accreditaion.  I shallowly love the whiteness of this paper and its more luxurious feel and look.  I do prefer it over the who gives a crap toilet paper if I had to choose, but I love the idea behind both of these companies and will alternate between the two though to throw my support at both.

Had some time for relaxing with some foodie mags, many a cupa and a yummy afternoon tea of fresh mango, greek yoghurt, walnuts & chia seeds (I'm addicted to them)
I've also found my knitting mojo and have completed my first poppy for the 5,000 poppy project, I'm loving the process, its a quick and easy pattern, I might keep going past the original aim of 3....

So thats it, a lovely quiet yet productive weekend.  Now that Monday is here, there is lots coming up on the blog as my creative juices have been flowing.

Did you attend the climate change rally in your area?  I saw some pictures of the one held in Melbourne and the numbers looked impressive which is great.  I'll leave you with one of the speakers lines which have been ringing in my ears, it was a lovely speach but 3 words that made me stand up straighter and pay attention were "I condemn ignorance", I'm making it my duty to become well informed, will you?  

Ciao, Jan
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