Monday, June 26, 2023

Food, sewing, home...

 Though our winter is proving to be warmer than usual with days around 29C (85F) and nights of 18C (65F), it's a lovely change from constant air conditioning most of the year, to just the ceiling fans switched on at midday. The garden is blooming, and each day we harvest a little bit more than the day before, so salads are a constant on the menu, especially for lunch. This is definitely the best season of the year in the tropics of northern Australia! 


I've really enjoyed being in the kitchen each day, preparing mostly items which are natural, healthy and very budget friendly - but a few sweet treats have been made as well! 

We rarely use dairy milk, so for ages I have made my own almond milk because it's my husband's favourite. Two litres of homemade almond milk costs me $1.10, and contains nothing more than almonds, water and a teaspoon of maple syrup - delicious! Two litres of shop bought almond milk costs $6 for the cheapest brand. I also make cashew milk, and oat milk, and coconut milk. 

Cashew milk costs around $3.30 for two litres of homemade; oat milk costs me 35c to make two litres (that's right!); and coconut milk costs me 90c to make two litres. Every one of these non-dairy milks is delicious and way cheaper than store bought. 

I'm also baking bread regularly again, and finally was able to buy wheat grains for my grain mill. This is such a blessing when it comes to healthy tasty bread, and saves us heaps on store bought bread. I've also been back to making sour dough bread, in fact, a few different ways. I have two recipes for a quick sour dough loaf, and another recipe for the two-day version. All of them are yummy and work each time.

I also made a few jars of strawberry and apple jam, our family favourite, and delicious spread over fresh baked bread or on scones. The strawberry and apple jam I made was inspired by the two bags of frozen strawberries in our freezer. Fresh strawberries are really expensive now, and our supply of homemade jams was dwindling, so when I was "shopping from the freezer" one day and remembered those frozen bags of fruit, I very quickly got to work and made more jam. It's so yum, and so easy. 

I knead my doughs in the breadmaker, then tip them out for the final knead and rise before baking in bread tins - because we like bread to be easy to slice for sandwiches and toast. Have I ever told you that my hubby's favourite treat is cheese and vegemite on toast? He prefers this to anything else for his Sunday evening dinner.
The quick loaf below was made with a sour dough starter, and some added yeast to move the process along. I also added sunflower seeds and sesame seeds as this was to mainly be a toasting loaf and those seeds in the crust make the crunchy edges of toast taste amazing. In the photo it's completed the first rise in the breadmaker and I'm just about to tip it out and form into a long loaf for the second rise before baking in the oven. 

I know there are many sour dough purists out there, and if I lived in a climate that was perfect for sour dough year round I'd 'maybe' become one of them (nah, I wouldn't) but in reality we must work with what we have, whether that be climate, ingredients, finances, skills, time or equipment. Never feel bad about how you make or bake if it's different to what's popular. ENJOY your time in the kitchen, and you'll make everyone at home very happy with what you serve them. 

We've had an abundance of cucumbers so far and doing a refrigerator pickle for salads and wraps and sandwiches is the perfect way to use them up. Our capsicums are growing but not yet ready for picking so I bought a huge bag of red "odd bunch" capsicums for $6 the other day and pickled a lot of them too - the rest was sliced and frozen foe cooking in recipes. 

Being creative to save money is wonderful because you can always find new ways to use ingredients that may otherwise be thrown into the compost, worm farm, or to the chickens. I had planted out French carrot seeds a couple of months ago, but the carrots did not grow - and it was all my fault because I crowded the seeds into a large rectangular container and neglected to thin them out in time. However, the carrot tops were long and lush! So I decided to make carrot top pesto with cashews, nutritional yeast (you could replace with parmesan), garlic, lemon juice and olive oil...

...and it is YUM! I spread it across toast, on crackers, in wraps, and over the top of eggs for breakfast. Last year I made radish top pesto and it was delicious too...I may try beetroot green pesto soon. Honestly, don't waste the green tops of your root veg.

We've got kale growing now, and though not a vegetable we like, it is quite delicious when dehydrated with a good splash of olive oil, and a generous serve of my cashew parmesan. Two year old Charlie David devours this, as do I.

Now to sweeties. Hubby prefers biscuits (cookies) so I've baked jam drops again... well as apple gingerbread for a dessert...

...banana, date and ginger loaf for afternoon teas...

...and another fat-free apricot cake, which I served with a Greek yoghurt sauce. I simply pureed more apricots with the yoghurt in a blender and poured it over the cake. 

As well as all this, in the past two weeks I've made a Lemon Delicious Pudding (a real throwback to the 80's), a south Indian peppered chicken curry (new to me recipe), and regular 'normal' meals that seem to rotate through the month. I cook mostly now with what's in season, or what I have on hand. Every Monday I clean out our two fridges and write a list of ingredients or condiments that need to be used up that week. From there I plan our menu and only buy necessary items from the shops. 

Sewing has really taken a back seat to gardening and cooking this winter, and I am yet to make a start on the crochet blanket I bought the yarn for last December. But that's okay. Who said we have to do it all, now, right now?? It used to be a conversation that ran often in my head, but these days I've learned to slow down, pottering about more, picking up this, putting down that, sitting in the quiet with a cup of freshly picked herbs steeped in boiling water while I watch the birds or read a book under the shade of our huge poinciana tree. 

Slow Sewing...

I completed a new design on Saturday. In the past this would have been made from start to finish is less than a week, but it's taken more than a month, and you know, to me this is the kind of 'slow stitching' I am looking forward to as the months and years pass. Unhurried sewing is very different to the schedule I'd followed since I first became a designer in 2009. Unhurried sewing is pure pleasure, with a mostly home-based purpose.

The kitchen island my husband bought me at a garage sale needed something on top, and that's what inspired me to sketch and prepare and sew a new design. The top of the kitchen island is 22" square, and the completed topper is 21.5" square so the wood can just peep out from under the edges. 

Before adding the binding, after I'd completed the hand quilting...

Four corners, all the same...

Sitting just as I imagined on top of the movable wooden island.


Home really is the place I love to be, tending the garden, creating healthy food, caring for all the Lord has blessed us with, praying with gratitude for all we have and the people who dwell within or visit, being conscious to create an atmosphere of welcome, security and comfort, infusing our dwelling place with the scent of Christ. 

The older I get the more I appreciate what's right in front of me today. If I think too much about tomorrow, the delights of this day will pass me by, and what a sad thing that would be. Gentleness comes easier these days, as does being quiet longer in order to hear what my loved ones have to say...and I find this especially important with 5yo Rafaella, who is a deep thinker, a real introvert, a little girl who should not be rushed along as she has big thoughts and needs time to put them into words. I am learning from my grandchildren as God rubs away my previously 'adult edges' which didn't listen enough to the little ones. And it really all comes down to getting off the hurry-hurry-highway this world encourages us to follow, and meandering along the gentler paths, the real paths, which offer a mor peaceful, gentler and kinder attitude to life. No wonder Jesus told us to become more like little children. :-)

God bless dear ones, and I will see you again on July 1st with the next free Virtuous Wife embroidery pattern. May this new week overflow with every good and marvellous joy the Lord has to offer, and may He always draw you closer to the One who loved you with His perfect sacrifice.


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Joanne said...

Hi Jennifer,
Carrot top pesto ! That's so creatively good !
Slow stitching project is a joy to see each morning when you walk in to the kitchen :)
Bread, baked goods, jams, pickles, milks and afternoon cups of tea, how wonderful each day can be :)
hugs, take care,

Anonymous said...

I so appreciate the effort it takes to share your wonderful ideas. Going to try the yogurt and fruit sauce.πŸ™❤️😊☀️

Anonymous said...

I savor every posting you make! We are retired & nearly finished with landscaping the back and front yards. All are with the focus that ALL be for keeping it easy to maintain later. I'm looking forward to spending time in the quilt room. I've been saving your posts for beautiful embroidery, and in a little while will be able to start going through your shop for other pieces I'd truly like to make. Thank you for sharing so much with all of us! I didn't see a way to search for recipes - do you have one for your strawberry & apple jam and the lemon pudding? Both sound wonderful! I spent Christmas in 1973 on the Brisbane coast with my exchange family & hubby and I went for a week around 2000 to snorkle, walk through the rainforest and enjoy the Cairns area -- what a paradise on earth Queensland is! Thanks again! Deb

Wendy said...

Jennifer, as always, you inspire me! Homemade almond and cashew and coconut milk ... genius! I love the use of carrot tops for a pesto. And your stitching is beautiful. Thank you for sharing yourself with all of us for over 2,500 posts! God bless!

Susan said...

I am always encouraged by your posts. I will miss it when you cease posting, but I can also understand the desire to do so. I have never heard of carrot top pesto--intriguing. May God continue to bless you, Jennifer.

Mary-Lou said...

Wow that's great cooking! I love your table cloth it's BEAUTIFUL!! Great ideas to try. Thank you so much! Off to Galway for a few days with a dear friend and hubby plus 3 dogs!! Love Mary-Lou

Angie in SoCal said...

Such a peace comes over me when I read your posts. I cherish them.

Lin said...

Lovely kitchen diary Jennifer, everything looks delicious and always good to get new ideas. I love the delightful table topper, so pretty and perfect for that island. Have a lovely peaceful week. xx

Julie said...

Another wonderful post dear Jennifer. I simply ADORE your mat for your kitchen Island - how perfect it is & those colours together πŸ’—πŸ’—
I am enjoying more slow stitching these days too - whatever form that may take. Why did we rush for all those years & simply wear ourselves out I do not know!? Have a lovely week my dear friend xXx

Tammy said...

Dearest Jennifer,

I love looking at all your beautiful baking. It is making me want a snack. I just don't know how you do it all. I put up 9 pints of tomatoes out of the garden today. Tomorrow I need to pick the green beans and see if I have enough to put in jars. Gardening surely keeps one very busy this time of year for you and for me. Love your slow stitching project. It is gorgeous
Love Always
Tammy Lyons

Susan said...

More beautiful words of wisdom, Jennifer. I can almost feel myself slowing my pace to yours, though it won't be in the kitchen. Your foods look lovely and delicious, but I can no longer eat most of them, just not allowed. However, I can enjoy them on your blog and think about how I can modify things to leave out parts I can't have. I do enjoy hearing about the milks and breads you are making and enjoying. Your words about Rafaella echo some thoughts I've been having lately about some of "my" children, and ring so true. Take the time, as it isn't going to come again.

Thanks for your sweet thoughts. I love listening to them, pondering them, and reflecting on how they can be used in my life, too.

BJ said...

I did the same thing with my carrots. I was so busy with the rest of the garden, I never got around to thinning them. Would you share how much of the yeast you use when making the pesto? I'm a newbie to using it. Oh by the way, have you ever come across the embroidery summit held by Rebecca Page? I've been feeling burnt out for doing much embroidery and this gets me back in the mood.
Thank you for sharing your life with us,

Ondrea said...

More delicious yumminess . Love your little table topper. Good to see your enthusiasm.

Jenny of Elefantz said...

Hi make the pesto I used my food processor.
Carrot greens, garlic, cashews, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (for that parmesan cheese flavour), salt, lemon juice and olive oil. I don't have an actual recipe for this, as I tend to eyeball my measurements, but I do remember using that 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast.

Anonymous said...

You always inspire me and I wanted to thank you for that. Showing me a simpler life has been a blessing and I owe it all to you!
I would like to ask what recipes you use for your be=raed on a daily Bess especially your sour dough recipe.
Thank you for everything you do for all of us!

Anonymous said...

Oh Yes, Aunty Jennifer, we are feeling the cost of living increases around here too. Its a tough season as I have not been able to get out in the garden to try to grow winter produce and fruit and veggies (the bulk of our grocery bill) are becoming so expensive. Looking forward to the warmer months over here and hopefully I will be recovered enough to get back into our little veggie patch and enjoy the satisfaction of not only feeding my family from scratch but literally growing much of the food to do so. Thanks for the inspiration and ideas. Love the pesto tip. Will definitely be trying that next carrot harvest. Love Emily xox

Anonymous said...

Beautiful blog. Would you mind sharing how you make your nut milks? What machine do you use. Enjoy your blogs. Caroleen another sister in Christ