The wet season has arrived and the garden is happy once more. My roses are abundant, and the vases inside overflow with their soft beauty, filling the air with a gentle romantic fragrance.
Having heaven water the plants each day has freed up an hour or so every morning, time which is normally spent watering and generally tending to the regular needs of a tropical garden preparing to welcome another ferocious summer.
A few days this week that precious hour has been added to time spent in the kitchen, and I thought I'd share some of the tasty things which were made - plus some of the recipes.
We had two pumpkins left from our winter planting and it's important to use them now, before the moist humidity rots them (which is what happened to a few pumpkins last year). We don't have anywhere cool and dry here to store produce at this time of year so I decided to work through a few recipes which could be enjoyed right now and also frozen for later.
Whilst cutting out recipes, household hints and articles from my very old Notebook magazines earlier this year, in order to discard what was not needed and thereby freeing up one whole shelf of a bookcase, I found this recipe for Roasted Pumpkin and Apple soup.
I always roast the pumpkin for my soups because it intensifies the flavour, but had never heard of adding apple as well...
I chose to cut up the smaller pumpkin for this soup as I could use it all at once. My fridge held a few granny smith apples which needed to be used and I also had a half carton of cream and some chicken stock, both leftover from a mushroom pasta sauce on Monday night. It's important to me these days that I make use of what's already in the fridge before shopping for more fresh produce or cold items, so this recipe ticked a lot of boxes! It also called for fresh sage which we have abundantly in the garden at the moment.
Firstly I fried the sage leaves for a minute in olive oil until crisp and set them aside for later, then chopped the pumpkin, apples, onions and garlic (my pumpkin pieces weighed 900g, a bit less than the recipe called for)...
...before placing them in the baking dish and coating them with the oil I'd fried the sage in. A sprinkle of salt and pepper, then in to the oven for 40 minutes (I tweaked the instructions to suit my own preference).
Once baked, I poured three cups of chicken stock over the mix and let everything go cold.
Then into the blender and once smooth I poured in the cream. This was so simple, and really delicious with the crushed fried sage and fresh chives scattered over the top. I'd call this recipe a keeper.
The other day I also worked on using leftovers from the fridge, this time for dessert. My beloved really enjoys his dessert and thankfully is easily pleased with simple sweets. He especially likes it when I bake fruit in puff pastry, which is what I did with a punnet of raspberries, a half-empty tub of cream cheese and the small bit of raspberry jam left in the bottom of a jar.
I buy sheets of frozen puff pastry to have on hand for these kind of desserts or for pies, but you could also roll out a block of puff pastry if that's all you have.
The photos below are of the second batch I made because after photographing the first batch (above) it occurred to me you might like to see the steps. This lot were a mix of raspberries and strawberries, and though they turned out just as lovely, I did find that strawberries have a lot more liquid than raspberries so there was leakage...next time I'll stick with just raspberries (or blackberries, or apricots...so many other options!).
Mix together half a cup of cream cheese, 1.5 tablespoons of icing sugar (confectioners sugar), and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. This is enough for eight pastries.
Cut the sheets of puff pastry into four squares each and place a small amount of the cream cheese mix in the centre. Add 1 level teaspoon of jam, and then place the berries over the top.
I can fit four on a tray...
Fold two corners into the centre...
Fold the opposite two corners into the centre as well, pulling the pastry a little longer as you do that. This helps to stick the four corners together.
Pinch the open corner edges together to seal the pastry closed.
Beat an egg, and lightly brush some egg over each pastry - you only need a little. Sprinkle granulated sugar across the top (I use raw sugar, but any granulated sugar is fine)...
Bake at 200c (400f) for around 12-14 minutes. They will puff up and go golden brown when ready. Truly, these are simple and really yum!
Thursday morning I was due to visit Blossom so I baked a batch of buttermilk scones. On Wednesday night I'd made buttermilk chicken with coleslaw and avocado on the side, and still had half a carton of buttermilk left, so once again I chose to use up what was already at hand and half an hour later these were baked and ready to wrap in a large tea towel for travelling...
I shared a photo of the scones on Instagram, with a lovely quote from Laura Ingalls Wilder, and when my friend Fee saw it she was inspired to bake scones too.
Later in the afternoon we were chatting on the phone (we live at opposite ends of Australia) discussing our shared ideals about homemaking, baking, getting older, and how we both need to slow down more in our businesses next year in order to immerse ourselves deeper into that beautiful occupation we love so much - gentle domesticity. We also talked about meals, the simpler ones our Nanas made, and why we both want to emulate their culinary resourcefulness now and into the future.
Well while we were chatting, Fee mentioned that she had a partially used can of crushed pineapple in the fridge and that she could use that to make a pineapple fruit cake. No sooner had she thought of this than I could hear her rattling around in her kitchen gathering ingredients. Funny thing was, I also needed to bake a cake because I had a few glass jars about 1/4 filled with various dried fruits that needed to be used soon. In our humidity even dried fruit goes funny if left too long.
So, I gathered my own recipe for pineapple fruit cake and soon we were texting photos to each other as we mixed, poured and baked 'together' over the phone. I tell you, this was so much fun!! And at the end we both had a delicious cake. I froze half this morning and the remaining half will serve hubby and I with a cuppa for the next few days.
If you'd like my recipe for no-fail Pineapple Fruit Cake, it's in this FREE issue of The Homemaker Heart magazine.
Today I decided to bake a loaf of Honey & Sultana bread for toasting at the weekend. I overbaked it slightly because I did not hear the timer go off, but it's not too bad and still tasted wonderful when I sliced the end and buttered it. I adore crusty bread, but hubby prefers the soft centre.
Here's the recipe if you want to try it. I make my dough in the breadmaker, then remove it and fold into a loaf shape for my bread tin. Once it has doubled in size I bake it at 200c (400f) for around 23-25 minutes. Of course I went five minutes longer this time, hence the overbaking.
The final tasty treat I'll show you is the Spanakopita which I baked on Tuesday night. We had a lot of parsley in the garden which needed to be cut back, and a large bag of spinach leaves in the fridge to be used, so I knew baking Spanakopita would not only bless us, but bless my Cypriot son in law Ross.
I took the leftovers to him and Blossom yesterday and he messaged last night to say it was delicious and he was so grateful. Normally I bake him Cypriot/Greek meals on his birthday and at Christmas, so this was a surprise which he really appreciated.
Now, finally, last week I showed you the Savoury Scrolls I had made and received comments and emails asking me for the recipe.
You only need a basic bread recipe (go HERE to download three I shared a few years back) and make it to the point of it's first rise.
Once the dough has risen for the first time, roll it out into a rectangle shape. Spread with tomato pesto, and grated cheese. You could also add olives, shredded chicken, salami, chopped red onion - anything you like, but don't overfill the dough.
Roll up the way you would make a swiss roll, then cut into twelve pieces. Lay in a large greased or parchment lined baking dish, and scatter more cheese across the top. Bake for around 20-25 minutes at 200c (400f) until risen and golden brown.
So tell me, what are some recipes you make to use up leftovers from the fridge or pantry? Do you plan your weekly menu with that in mind?
I've had this ideal for a (very) long time, but too often allowed busyness to get in the way and more food than was necessary found it's way into the compost or rubbish bin due to expiring before I made use of it.
With the increasing scarcity of many grocery items these days, and the higher cost of everyday items and fresh produce, I'm determined to use what I have on hand before buying more...and also to consider Nana's example and think more simply with regards to meals. Another thing which is becoming increasingly clear, is that we are not eating as much as we used to and I need to reduce the servings, cook smaller portions, or freeze half the meal for another night. My friend Rosie and I have discussed this a number of times lately, in fact it was she who mentioned it first and made me start thinking about the size of the meals I prepare.
We are living in changing times and new challenges seem to be cropping up around every corner, but if we take notice, and adjust our homemaker habits accordingly, we can get through this.
Next week I have an idea for gift giving which won't cost you a penny. In fact I have a few simple ideas which are inexpensive, but the first one uses what you more than likely have on hand already.
God bless your dear hearts, and thanks for dropping by, for being an ear to hear and also a source of wisdom for myself and others when you share your own ideas and life lessons.