gardening is for kids tools

A very generous friend gave my 2 year old a gardening tool set. Obviously intended to be a way to get my Little’un involved in some of my outdoor endeavours. It turned out to be one of the best gardening gifts anyone has ever given me.

It’s true, I’m not very tall. Also true, I’m not very strong. Well, I’m pretty strong but it contradicts to my life force – laziness. So I find that gardening tools from the hardware shop leave me feeling much too tired. I admit it – I can’t raise my arms after a gardening session with a full sized shovel. All my gardening aspirations cease at approximately 30 minutes of strenuous labour. Alright, so 15 minutes.

Enter, the child size garden tool set. Not plastic. Real wood and metal! I have found it to be the perfect size and weight for vegetable garden maintenance. I can easily reach to the centre of the raised veggie bed with my mini-garden-rake, dig a suitably sized hole with my mini-shovel, smooth over the soil with my mini-leaf-rake and collect my veggies in the mini-barrow.

It’s teeny tiny gardening tools for those with teeny tiny constitutions.

gardening tools

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carrot cake with lime cream cheese icing

carrot cake with lime icingThis is a winner. It’s the orange in the cake mix and lime in the icing that makes this cake so scrumptious. Most of this cake was eaten before I could take a glamour shot to show you.

200 g butter, softened
240 g caster sugar
4 eggs
180 g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
200 g carrot, grated (that’s 2 medium carrots)
60 g coconut, shredded
60 g walnuts, crushed
1 orange zest
½ orange juice
extra 50 g coconut, shredded, roasted

Icing:
130 g cream cheese
100 g icing sugar
1 lime zest, fine
½ lime juice

Preheat the oven to 170c.
Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric beater until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Sift in flour and baking powder then mix to combine.
Add carrots, coconut, zest, walnuts and orange juice.
Mix to combine and pour into cake pan.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer to the centre comes out clean.
Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes then move to a rack.

Garnish: Put the extra coconut in an oven proof dish and dry roast for about 5 minutes – don’t leave it long, you want it to be just golden. Then remove and set aside to cool.

Icing: Beat ingredients until smooth. Spread over cake and garnish with roasted coconut.

carrot cake with lime cream cheese icing

kale potato and chorizo soup

kaleI planted Kale in the garden, it grew, and now I need to work out what to cook with it. It’s a pretty plant and I can understand why it has made its way into bouquets at the florist. It has a cabbage-like taste that is probably very versatile. So far I can recommend this very quick soup, which makes a tasty weeknight dinner. This soup is as quick to cook as frying thin slices of sausage and boiling diced potatoes, so you can make it within 15 minutes, if focused, and will serve 2-3 people.

olive oil
2-3 chorizo sausages, sliced
1 onion diced
3 potatoes, diced
2 cups kale, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable stock powder
boiling water

In a stock pot, fry the chorizo sausage with a dash of oil, then add the onion. Gently fry until onion is clear, don’t burn it but you can let the bottom of the pot get brown as this will enhance the flavour.
Add the potatoes, stir.
Add the stock and the boiling water, enough to cover everything. Now gently work the ‘brown’ off the bottom of the pot with your wooden spoon.
Simmer until the potatoes are tender.
Add the kale, simmer for 2 minutes so that the kale is just cooked but still bright green.

kale potato and chorizo soup

the directionally challenged chicken

It seems that I have a directionally challenged chicken. I discovered this just recently when I moved the chicken coop to another location in the yard. ‘Turn me around and I’m lost’ – a common saying among people-folk can be transferred to the chicken-folk it turns out.

There are pros and cons to the movable coop. Turning the grass to mud in more than one location is a benefit for sure. Just don’t move it too far at one time. It so happens that 4 metres was too far.

Korma isn’t the smartest chook around, but I began to really wonder at her abilities when we recently moved the coop. She was completely lost. The other two chicken-folk had long since found their way home, had something to eat and gone to bed. But not Korma.

I was going to have to catch her. We were a mirror of the other, both with arms and wings flailing, running a zigzag path, jumping, skidding, grappling and squawking … maybe I would be better off if she was true to her name, hot and spiced in the casserole dish.

After some time, she tried to roost in the low branches of a tree, close to where the coop used to be, and so I grabbed her. Able to return her to the coop, my directionally handicap chicken lives to see another day. But let that be a lesson to you, the further you move the coop, the more exercise you and your chicken will get.

Korma the lost chicken

DIY golden gay time (and I mean the ice cream)

golden gay time ice creamCarmel ice cream topping
Milk (enough to fill your molds)
Chocolate ice magic or melted chocolate
Tiny Teddy biscuits

Combine the milk with caramel sauce and mix well. Pour into pop maker.
Get about 10 tiny teddies, put them in a small clean plastic bag or between two pieces of kitchen paper and beat them to crumbs with a rolling pin.
Have the chocolate ready to go then remove the ice creams.
You’ll need to work quickly, the chocolate will harden so I just use my finger to spread the ice magic around. If you are using melted chocolate you can just dip the ice cream in, which might be more palatable if the people watching you are older than 2 and about to eat it.
I find coating half is enough but you can go all the way if you like.
While the chocolate is still sticky and not quite frozen hard, dunk it in the biscuit crumbs.

Voila!

perhaps I’m just easily impressed

On a recent trip to the beautician I was overwhelmingly impressed with what turned out to be an underwhelming everyday item.

About to have my first pedicure in a long time, I had arrived at the (new to me) salon feeling that mix of excitement and awkward anticipation that you only get before someone you don’t know is about to scrub the calloused skin from the bottom of your hoof. I walked in and casually jumped, crawled, wiggled and clawed my way up onto the ‘work bed’.

The bed was surprisingly warm and I started to relax into my magazine as she assessed the damage. I was assuming there was some amazing wizbangery at play. Some incredible tool – a dazzling mutli-function treatment bed – perfectly designed. It must cost a fortune to set a place up with all these beauty gizmos. Where does one even buy hot wax? I’ve never seen a nail file like that before! Thank goodness there aren’t too many mirrors in here. And now they’ve got heated beds! (My mind can be quite busy)

I complimented her on this exceptional treatment bed. Perhaps a little too freely… So maybe I was bordering on gushy, but I said, “wow, great heated bed, I love this, so cosy, I need one of these, it’s great, really relaxing, so amazing…”. Never deterred and always focused on her professionalism, she smiled delicately and said, “well, yes, you can get one, it’s just an electric blanket”.

covet thy neighbour

One of my neighbours has hydrangea plants that blow my mind. I know what you’re thinking – ‘That’s a granny plant. You’re early thirties, get back to the real world of phallic lilies!’ And perhaps I’m getting old before my time. But there is a allure to the hydrangea that can’t be denied. The soft frilly undies of its flowers, growing, expanding. The papery not-quite-white and not-quite-blue of their frill is charming in its indecisiveness.

Then there’s my neighbour – his bold, vibrant, decisive hydrangea has shouted into the hearing-aid of all those granny plants “look at me, I’m here and I’m a colour!”. The flowers are so dark purple they tease that they might be black. They flicker burgundy. They want to imprint themselves into your eyes. Whatever it is they’ve got, it won’t be mistaken for granny frills.

The other day I passed as my neighbour was pulling into the drive, I skittled across the road and filled him with compliments. And so it was, just like that, perhaps dazzled by my own charm, he revealed his secret, the missing ingredient from all the papery indecisive gardens that surrounded us. He gave it away, freely, openly, kindly. But I will not.

Thou shalt covet my hydrangea now! (Well, and his too)

Hydrangea in vase

blood plum clafoutis

blood plums in a blue dishI’ve made a few ‘clafouti’ in my time and they have always been well received. Use whatever fruit is in season (peaches, poached pears, plums, etc). You can also successfully use frozen raspberries, blueberries or cherries. Or cherries in a jar work just fine too. Essentially, it’s a bit like a custard batter with fruit baked in, yum! Super easy, super impressive.

Blood plums
200 ml cream
3 eggs
60 g plain flour
⅓ cup vanilla infused caster sugar*
Butter to grease

Preheat oven to 180c
Cut the plums in half, remove seeds.
Grease a baking dish with butter and place the plum halves into the dish, skin down.
Beat the remaining ingredients to form a smooth batter, then pour the batter into the dish. (Pour around the plums so the fruit looks pretty – but some of it will sink anyway, no perfectionists here).
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

* Keep a jar of caster sugar in the cupboard with a vanilla pod in it.

plum clafoutis

golden plum clafoutis

 

does this make my bum look fab?

Maybe we should give the poor man a chance. I mean, we are all guilty of the “Does this make my bum look fat?” question at some time in our feminine lives. It could be mildy disguised by “Do you like these pants?” or hidden in the slightly loaded statement “They’re my new pants! …” but ultimately – it’s that question.

Why do we have to bring the poor man into it. He was just harmlessly doing his thing, wearing his jeans and some shirt that has a hole developing in the side. What does he really care? In fact, it almost shows how much he cares. I’m trying to make an effort here. It’s so easy for you, I mean geez, did you even brush your hair? – He’s collateral damage at this point – And how the heck do you get a hole there anyway?! I’m thinking who does he think he is, Yves Saint Laurent?!

He stumbles aimlessly, blinded by the frailty of his conviction. He can see the cracks* forming, “umm… well, you know, it’s just drinks…”

Like it being ‘just drinks’ makes the size of my bum in these pants inconsequential.

It’s a no win scenario.

So I propose a simple letter change: Fat / Fab. Love the question – and the response.

“Does this make my bum look fab?!” … “Hell yeah”

*bum

italian lamb shanks

lamb shanks cooking sauceI’m talking Italian favours not imported shanks. This is simple peasant cooking, wholesome and hearty. The lamb shank makes a really easy to prepare, low cost and tasty dinner, so long as you have the time to cook it. The best shanks will spend at least 4 hours in a low to moderate oven.

Lamb shanks, trimmed of fat
Olive oil
1 Leek
1 Carrot
1 tbsp Tomato paste
Tin tomato
Oregano
Thyme
Rosemary
Parsely
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp sugar
Green beans*, top and tail
Parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 160c
Ideally you have a casserole dish (with a lid) that does both stove top and oven, so you brown the shanks in a casserole dish with olive oil and pepper. Then set shanks aside.
Lower heat, sweat the leeks and add the carrot in the same dish.
Add the tomato paste and tomatoes, sugar, salt, then herbs (which can be left on their stick or removed an chopped), stir the sauce.
Add the shanks back to the pot, make sure they are covered with the sauce. You may add a bit of water or stock.
Put the lid on and put in the oven for a minimun of 3 hours.
Check on it half to hourly, if the sauce is drying out, add a little bit of water or stock.
About 30 mins before serving, add the beans so they cook in the pot, or you can steam them separately.

Serve on a bed of parmesan polenta with a sprinkle of parsley.

* I forgot to add the beans to the one pictured (they were still waiting in the colander after everyone had finished dinner, so you can leave them off completely too if you wish)

lamb shanks with polenta