Month: August 2014

What a week

Winter window

This week has been overwhelming. It is the first week of my maternity leave and I was looking forward to, no desperate for, a break. Instead my little girl got sick. Then she got sicker. Today is the first day neither of us has had some sort of medical appointment. Normally I love gloomy grey weather but it makes running errands with a sick toddler impossible. I was surprised how emotionally draining it can be having an unwell child. I wanted nothing more than to make her feel better but there was so little I could do. The pleading in her eyes when she tried to crawl into my lap but couldn’t fit due to my pregnant belly almost broke my heart.

The good news is she’s now on the mend. I’m slowly getting the house back in order but truth be told, at the moment there are more important things than a polished floor. I just want to nourish our bodies and be gentle to our spirits while everyone recuperates, physically and emotionally.

Grange

I should have known this week was going to be testing after a lovely dinner with my father and sister on Saturday night. My father is a wine collector and some of his collection was due to be enjoyed. Of course being pregnant I couldn’t indulge in the fine wines on offer (last time Dad opened some Grange I was pregnant with my toddler! The start of a week of Murphy’s Law!) so I had more than my fair share of pizza to make up for it. I like my Dad’s philosophy on wine- he buys it young and inexpensive and cellars it until it’s in it’s prime. The ultimate delayed gratification. Years ago, when the Government economic stimulus program saw my husband receive a stimulus payment we spent it on Australian wine. We figured it was keeping the money in the country and now we have some beautiful wine which has greatly increased in value. One of these days I might even get a chance to drink some!

Jasmine

Despite the wet weather my jasmine has decided it is well and truly spring. I love the way the vine climbs up outside my daughter’s window. When the weather is fine and the window open the sweet smell permeates the whole upper storey of the house. It seemed a shame to leave such beautiful blooms out in foul weather so I snipped a long tendril this morning and put it in our bedroom. The scent really does lift my spirits.

Bassinette

Last night the bassinette for our impending baby was delivered. As soon as it was unwrapped Willa put her doll inside, covered it with a scarf to act as a blanket, then pulled up her little chair and started reading her ‘baby’ a story. Cuteness overload. And very reassuring to see her role play a baby sibling in a loving way.

sesame seed bread

Terracotta bread tin

This week I received my new terracotta bread form. I seasoned the pan using vegetable oil earlier in the week and baked my second loaf in it today. I still use my breadmaker to do the hard work (kneading, rising etc) but the terracotta gives the bread such a lovely texture! The shape of the loaf is much nicer too (though as you can see in the picture above I was lax when forming the loaf and it’s rather lopsided- oops!).

Tea and knitting

Most of today I have spent on the lounge, drinking peppermint tea, and knitting. Turns out I actually buggered up the pattern so I’ll have to undo everything I did but it felt nice to get in the flow of knitting again, and so appropriate given the weather.  I also enjoyed the fruits of my labour, that is freshly baked bread slathered in butter. Delicious! Please excuse the crumbs on my belly!

Fresh bread

All in all I’m glad the week is over and a new one is on the way. I hope your week has treated you better and if not, you were able to focus on the simple pleasures like freshly baked bread and spring blooms.

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Beneficial beans

Beans and pulses can be super cheap and a great way to increase fibre and protein in your diet. Due to the high protein content they are very filling, even for those members of the family who may baulk at the idea of a meat-free meal. They are also high in iron, although it is nonheme iron so it requires vitamin C to be absorbed properly. This is easy enough to do by including a fruit or vegetable high in vitamin C such as lemon or capscicum (bell peppers) in the dish. I’m currently anaemic due to my late stage of pregnancy and I’ve been increasing the amount of beans and pulses in our meals as there is only so much meat I can eat (and afford to eat!).

Soaked beans

I prefer to buy my beans dried. They are usually cheaper this way and it means I can store and prepare them the way I like. As I rarely drive they’re also easier to carry home- much lighter than a bunch of cans! If you are planning on using dried beans I cannot stress how important it is to soak them overnight! Soaking prevents that unpleasant gas and bloating effect that one can experience from eating beans (it’s one of the big reasons I like to prepare them myself as I find canned beans can produce discomfort). It also reduces the cooking time. If beans aren’t something you regularly include in your diet it’s also worth building up the amount you consume slowly, to allow your gut to adjust to the increase in fibre.

Bean packet

Rinsed beans

Beans in pressure cooker

I used to just prepare the amount of beans I needed for a recipe however I finally figured out it’s more effective to prepare a whole batch at once. I soak the whole packet over night, rinse the next morning, then pop in the pressure cooker with fresh water. It’s actually a very quick process. It only takes a minute to pour the dried beans into a bowl and cover with water before you go to bed, rinsing takes seconds, and the pressure cooker makes cooking super quick. Once they’re cooked I set aside the beans I need for my recipe that day, the rest I freeze in recipe sized portions (usually about a cup). This saves time and energy (gas used by the stove and electricity used by the freezer as a full freezer operates more efficiently) which equals dollars in my pocket!

I love having beans on hand in the freezer to toss into all sorts of meals to bulk things up. What’s your favourite meal using beans or pulses?

 

TV-free Tuesdays

My sister and her husband have started something they call TV-free Tuesdays. Like so many of us they found themselves starting to slip into the habit of switching on the idiot box after dinner each night. Now I’m going to admit something so few people do: I love TV. Love it. It’s true. I love big fantasy dramas like Game of Thrones, reality shows like 24 hours in Emergency and One Born Every Minute, Aussie comedic dramas like Offspring, documentaries, the list goes on. The problem with loving TV and switching the TV on each night out of habit is you usually end up watching more than just the show you had planned. The hours pass and before you know it you’ve wasted the whole evening sitting in a stupor on the lounge, often in close proximity to your partner without actually engaging them in meaningful conversation. Now that ain’t good.

So what’s the alternative? Leave the TV off and do something instead. Read a book, do some knitting, bonus points if you do something together such as a jigsaw puzzle or card game. The main thing is to break that mind numbing habit and reconnect with yourself and or your partner and family. Get away from the constant screens at which we seem to endlessly stare (computers, TVs, phones, tablets etc) and engage in something fun and active.

Games and puzzles

Matisse jigsaw puzzle

I often keep my eyes open for jigsaw puzzles at op shops. I’ve picked up some great ones including the Matisse pictured. I love puzzles that are artworks. The hardest I’ve completed so far is Blue Poles– it took ages! I also picked up this wonderful Book of Games which is full of every type of card, dice, gambling, and table game. It’s great for inspiration and also as a rule book to which players can refer- especially important when you’re playing with family!

Book of Games

Dix Mille

One of our favourite games is Farkle. It’s a dice game also known as Dix Mille, 10,000, 6 Dice and so on. All you need to play are six dice and pen and paper to keep score. The aim of the game is to be the first to reach 10,000 and points are scored by adding up the dice as you take turns. It’s a great game as no particular skill is needed and it can be played anywhere (we often take our dice to the park and lie in the sun playing for hours) and with any number of players. You can even play in teams if you want. It’s also a good way to get kids to practise their math (addition and multiplication) and probability calculations.

Do you find yourselves slipping into bad screen habits (please tell me we’re not the only ones!)? Have you tried TV-free nights or a family games night? If so, what are your favourite things to do? I love the idea of this becoming a little family ritual.

Scrumptious scrolls

I truly do not intend to focus on food on this blog but meals and the kitchen play such a big part in any family home it’s hard not to! Lately I found myself craving cinnamon scrolls. I’m not a big believer in sugar and refined carbs but sometimes one just has to give in to the cravings! All things in moderation, I say!

This scroll recipe is great because by its very nature you are making a large batch of scrolls. What you don’t eat straight away you can freeze and reheat later. It’s also wonderful because you can tailor it to what’s in the pantry or what you’d like to use the scrolls for. I wanted sweet scrolls for breakfast or morning tea so that’s what I made but if you were looking for something savoury for the kids’ lunch boxes or a picnic you could swap out the sweet ingredients for savoury such as cheese, ham, herbs etc.

I saved myself some time and mess by making the leaven dough in the bread maker (man I love that thing) and the rest of the steps were perfect for my toddler assistant to get involved. We took turns rolling out the dough and sprinkling ingredients etc. She just loves helping.

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) warm (not hot!) milk
  • 3 teaspoons dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 4 cups (600g) plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked

Flavouring

  • 80g butter, melted/softened (approx, I didn’t measure)
  • half a cup brown sugar (approx, I didn’t measure)
  • ground cinnamon
  • handful of sultanas
  • handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped

Method:

  1. Combine milk, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes until frothy.
  2. Combine flour and salt in the breadmaker; make a well in the centre. Pour milk mixture and egg into the well; turn it on and let the machine do its thing. (If you don’t have a breadmaker simply mix in a bowl and cover until dough has risen).

  3. When the machine has finished the leaven dough cycle and your dough has doubled in size preheat your oven to 180°C.  Line a tray with baking paper.

  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

    Dough

  5.  Use a rolling pin to roll to a 30 x 40cm rectangle. Brush/spread with butter, leaving some butter for later. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over dough, again reserving some for later. Fold a short side of dough over two-thirds of filling. Fold remaining 1/3 over the top to enclose filling. Roll dough out to a 30 x 40cm rectangle; repeat filling and folding process. You can do this s couple of times but I only did it once.

    rolling out

    cinnamon and sugar

    folded and rolling

  6. Roll dough to a 30 x 40cm rectangle. Repeat butter, cinnamon, and sugar steps. Sprinkle with sultanas and walnuts.

    more cinnamon

    walnuts

    ingredients done

  7. Roll up dough from a long side to enclose filling. Cut log crossways into portions. Arrange, cut-side up, on tray. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside for 15 minutes to rise.

    rolling up log

    log

    cut pre-rise

    after 15min rise

  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Set aside for 30 minutes then turn onto a wire rack. (Your house will smell so good!)

    baked close-up

  9. If you like you can drizzle with a simple icing but they really don’t need it. Only ice those you are going to serve immediately if you choose to do so.

I couldn’t help but eat a couple as soon as they came out of the oven. In fact we could have eaten a lot more if I hadn’t forced myself to freeze half as soon as they cooled down. Each morning this week my husband popped a couple into the oven whilst I was in the shower and it was so good to come downstairs to a hot cinnamon scroll and cup of tea for breakfast! They do have a tendency to dry out when you’re reheating them so feel free to brush with a little milk before sticking them in the oven to ensure they remain nice and soft. I love a recipe that I can make in advance and still feel like I’m having a homemade treat!

Alternative flavourings:

  • cheese and vegemite
  • ham and cheese
  • pizza- tomato paste, herbs, garlic, cheese, ham etc
  • herb and garlic
  • apple and cinnamon
  • salami, sun-dried tomato, spanish onion
  • chocolate and hazelnut
  • apricot and pistachio

Do you make homemade scrolls? Have any other flavour combinations to offer?

*Please note: I have edited this post and adjusted the cooking temperature and time after further experimentation*