Catching up.

Well, what a cracker of a weekend weather wise. How could anyone want for any better than we have experienced this weekend in West Gippsland? I’ll start my little catch up post covering how we spent today in the back yard enjoying the most wonderful sunshine and balmy weather. I did say this year was going to be busy and yep, it is!

Menu for lunch today was: (With limited photos, too nice a day!)

Pork Belly which was a marriage of Bill Granger’s Crispy Pork Belly with Caramel Vinegar and Annabel Langbein’s Crispy pork belly. I had never eaten nor cooked pork belly before today, in fact I never used to eat pork at all. I think I suffered from that condition where you are fed crappy quality food as a child and the memory of how awful it was sticks forever. I would always say pork smelled like a pig sty and all but gagged when it was cooking, but I never get that anymore. Anyway, I was quite nervous at the prospect of cooking this so I went for using Bill’s Caramel Vinegar Sauce to serve and Annabel’s method for cooking. With my not so reliable cooking equipment, I liked the idea of cooking the pork in the milk bath. What a great result. I cooked it in the gas pizza oven, after I had carefully scored the skin and blow dried it with my hairdryer. Annabel said it is important for the skin to be very dry so I dug around in a cupboard to find the hairdryer for this job.

Scored pork bellyIt was baked in the gas pizza oven at 240ish for about 40 minutes, I then added enough milk to the roasting pan to cover most of the meat section, being careful not to cover skin. This went back in the oven turned down to low (I had to occasionally open and close the door to maintain a low temperature) for about 2 hours . I then removed from the oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes. I wish someone had offered the tip that it is easier to cut if you actually remove the bone plate first! I eventually got a system going and we were off and running. Crackle was wonderful and the meat was sticky, juicy and beautiful.

Pork bellyI roasted some potatoes and pumpkin in the barbecue, spuds were the beautiful Dutch Creams form Wendy and Tony at Thorpdale Organics. Yes, they are as good as Wendy always tells us. I par boiled them first and let them completely dry before roasting after applying a light dressing of olive oil. You can also get these potatoes and much more great organic produce at The Trafalgar Spud Shed. Remember to take a bag and save on plastic waste.BBQ Roast vegetablesI baked a herb and chilli loaf in the barbecue as well. No chance that stayed around long enough for a photo. My youngest son just devours this when he sees it.Herb sourdough loaf I also served my now favourite, freekah with roast tomato, hazelnut  and capsicum salad along with some green beans. The caramel vinegar sauce of Bill Granger’s was an absolute knock out. Asian overtones, syrupy, sticky and decadent. Definitely a do again recipe.

IMG_6888 Dessert was very light, slow cooked quince which I’d cooked with sugar, star anise and cinnamon and topped with greek yogurt, crumbled ginger nut biscuit and grated lemon zest. Some fruit and chocolate nut bread thinly sliced to mop up the quince juice and it was surprisingly good. It looks a bit strange in the photo as the crumbled ginger nut and lemon zest is a bit clumped.IMG_6896The feeding frenzy in the sun, beautiful day, family and friends. Perfection!IMG_6880

A couple of bread bits.

I made an experimental loaf of bread using dates, figs, a couple of prunes, macadamia nuts, skim milk powder and using Chad Robertson’s standard Country Loaf recipe (well almost). IMG_6875I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome, it looks a little dry in this pic but it wasn’t. I sliced it thinly and served it with our slow roasted quince dessert but I think it would be beautiful if toasted and served with a mashed banana on top.

IMG_0403Along with the chocolate fruit and nut bread, the herb bread and our weekly bake, I made a couple of loaves for our guests to take home. These were just basic white sourdough loaves which always go down well and I like offering them as a gift.

IMG_0404When you bake or create something it is always recommended that you record how and what you did so that if you need to recreate you can, or if you have problems you can possibly work out what may have contributed to the problem. When I was making a lot of cheese at home I was pedantic at recording every single step I did. I find I don’t have the same discipline with bread making. I do make an effort and sometimes I manage to record everything including ambient and dough temperatures but more often than not I end up with a little scribble that looks like this. Hope I never need to know what the 500g in the prune and cocoa mix is for (it is flour but I didn’t get that far). I also haven’t recorded that I added dates, figs, prunes, macadamia nuts, I think some cranberries……see I should be more committed.

IMG_0405I must admit I have Maurizio envy, look at his entries recording his bread making. I can only aspire to as good as he with both baking and recording. Sigh………

theperfectloaf-mybestsourdoughrecipe-3The exteno

We are both rather ‘over’ the reno at the moment, what’s that thing athletes go through when they are close to the end of an event and find it hard to continue? I think we are at that point, along with just being plain tired (which leads to doing silly things like busting sinks) and in need of some R&R. All is going well apart from the hiccup of busting the new sink.

IMG_6868IMG_0392Working when tired makes you do stupid things like topple tall cupboards over before they are secured. I like to think this sink actually saved me from injury as I was working below the cupboard that fell and the sink broke its fall. See the new wormy chestnut floorboards peeking though? Not showing any more yet!

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Exteno update and pumpkin seed bread.

Well it is well and truly all systems go here. I may as well just talk you through some shots of what’s been happening.

We have floor boards!

IMG_6797These were laid last week and it is thrilling to now be able to actually see the room as a unit.  You can just see on the left  a couple of doors on the passageway. These doors were originally at the front of the passage and divided the home from the doctors ‘business end’ of things. They really suit this spot and I love the fact we have put them back into the home. Wiring is all roughed in and light fittings will be fitted later next week.IMG_0349 This is a pic of what will be the laundry which is part of a second bathroom, the laundry bits will be hidden in a cupboard. This was taken yesterday and we have since done 2 coats of paint. The tiler is supposed to come tomorrow so we have tried to cover as much as possible before he starts to avoid dropping paint over the new tiles. We are notoriously messy painters!IMG_6822This pic is of the ceiling in the new spare bedroom. I really love whacky angles and think this will be a really cosy room.IMG_6824 This is taken from the door of this bedroom looking back out to the family/kitchen room. There is a storeroom off to the left and when you turn right (where the paint drop sheets are), you come intoIMG_6825 this passage that the bathroom/laundry, are off. There is also another toilet and a store cupboard in this area. IMG_6821In the shed is a divorce waiting to happen! After much research and investigating we have opted for a DIY kitchen. My son and D.I.L did theirs and their kitchen looks sensational, better than most of the displays we looked at and a hell of a lot cheaper. We have been spending way too much and because I want to have the benchtops made from the timber we took from the old parts of the house, we really needed to tighten the belt a bit. I’m really excited to see it come together.  We survived putting up a greenhouse so I think we can survive some cupboards! IMG_6826So that’s where we are currently at. After waiting sooooooo long I can’t believe how well and how quickly its coming together.

Pumpkin seed sourdough.

I thought I’d try a few loaves over the next few weeks that have extra seeds and grains added . This weekends bake was a simple country loaf dough made of 90% bread flour, 10% Callington Mill Whole Wheat flour, 72% water, 25% white starter (100% hydration), 2% salt, and 150g pumpkin seed (.075%).

IMG_0295 Love seeing such an active starter doing its thing!IMG_0298-001I went back to using my Falcon Enamel roaster to bake these loaves as I’m struggling with sore hands and the cast iron pots are having a little break for a couple of weeks.IMG_6840Crumb shot of the loaf below.IMG_6848Happy with that!IMG_6842Can’t wait to see what next week delivers with the exteno!

 

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In My Kitchen-April Already

Thanks to Maureen at Orgasmic Chef for hooking up fellow In My Kitchen bloggers who participate in sharing their own and peeking into each others kitchens each month. Why don’t you head over and check a few out? Thanks Maureen, I always learn new things each month.

I refuse to bang on again about the reno this month. I am over it and as we are closing in on completion, I want to keep things under my hat a bit. I must admit it has been interesting trying to come up with ideas to share this month, but as always, once you start you can usually dig out a few!

In My Kitchen were Sourdough English Muffins

I was wanting to try making something different with my sourdough starter, so I decided to try making some sourdough English Muffins.

Sourdough English MuffinsI made these and was very pleasantly surprised with the way they turned out. Being basically lazy, for the first couple I made them square rather than round as I have no idea where my crumpet sized rings are. I actually think I’ll stick to the square shape in the future, easy to handle and fit better into the pan. These were the slightly rounder ones cooking.

Sourdough English MuffinsI really liked the texture and gobbled one down for breakfast with butter and Vegemite. I highly recommend this recipe, although I did cut back on the sugar as I find with most recipes, they are too sweet for my liking. These would make a great breakfast addition for when you have guests stay and you enjoy a leisurely brunch. It can all be prepared a day or two ahead and you could cook them on the barbecue in bulk quantities.

Sourdough English MuffinsIn My Kitchen, an oldie but a goodie-Fried Rice.

Fried RiceI hadn’t made fried rice for ages and it just seemed to fit the bill for an easy Easter Meal. I think the secret to good fried rice is cooking the rice well in advance and letting it really dry out well before using it in the dish. I’ve tried to record how I make our fried rice, Mr ATMT said this was the best he’d had over the years. Click this link for MAREE’s Fried Rice recipe

This years planting of garlic

In My Kitchen is a little less garlic. Last week I planted out what will hopefully yield  enough harvest for the following 12 months. This is the first season in a long time where I have used garlic from my own harvest for planting. For years I have been supporting Simon at Garlicworld and buying from him but I wanted to see how mine went.

Garlic

 

 

In My Kitchen is a jar of honey. A special jar of honey!

Last time I went to the Warragul Farmers Market I bought this jar of honey from a very special stall-holder. The Bunyip Beekeeper is spreading some wonderful knowledge about bees and bee keeping. They offer a huge range of services including leasing of hives, training and education about beekeeping and they do some amazing swarm and hive removal/relocations. I find bees to be fascinating and they are under some heavy duty environmental threats worldwide so need all the help they can get. I love seeing someone with such passion and knowledge sharing it with others. Apparently this is one of the stronger flavours of honey they supply. Might have to make some more muffins!

Bunyip beekeeper honeySo that’s about it for this month in my kitchen, thanks again Maureen for hosting.

Posted in Baking, Bread, In My Kitchen, In The Garden, Recipes, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments

Converting Tomatoes.

In between having a lovely (although short), overnight Easter camping get together, I have been converting tomatoes into pickles and soup and making stock from scraps from the soup and what I had saved in the freezer.  I was delighted last week to find when I got home, a large box of Periform Abruzzo tomatoes sitting on my verandah. Two years ago, I gave George from Tarra Valley Foods  some of this variety and he saved some seed and has had wonderful success saying the yield has been great. How lovely of him to pass on some of his harvest back to me. If ever you are heading east on the Princes Highway and go through Rosedale, call in and sample (and buy) some of George and Jenny’s beautiful preserves. They also enjoy a chat and would make you feel most welcome.

So these tomatoes were converted into:

Tomato Pickles.

This Tomato Pickles Recipe was given to me a couple of years ago and it has turned into a family favourite. I rarely make tomato sauce anymore as this pickle can be used in so many ways we prefer it and you can knock some up pretty easily. Tomatoes and onions chopped and brined overnight (this is a double batch).IMG_6722 Hopefully this will be the last season I’ll need to resort to this method for cooking. Actually I can guarantee it will be the last, coz if I don’t have the new kitchen next year I won’t be making anything! Brown vinegar, sugar and spices cooked with tomatoes and onions. When cooked for about 40 mins I added a couple of tablespoons of cornflour (real, not wheat) to maintain its gluten free title.

Gas burner verandahThe pickle is then bottled. I did cut back the sugar content by about a third and we find it still quite sweet but not too much so.Tomato Pickles

Tomato Soup

I read on Francesca’s blog a couple of weeks ago about her ‘Moulin Rouge retro Tomato Soup’ and it really appealed to me so on went a batch of that. Francesca used a Mouli to press (puree) the cooked ingredients but I used my tomato passata processor and it worked well. Happy, mine isn’t as pretty as Francesca’s but it tastes lovely and we now have quite a decent stash of ready to go meals in the freezer.

Here are the veggies cooking and the last of my home-made stock going in to the pot.

IMG_6738I ran all the cooked goodies through the tomato mill a couple of times to get the maximum flavour possible extracted.IMG_6748Then into freezer containers (reclaimed take away meal boxes) for a rainy day. When I cook/reheat this I will add some fresh basil and white pepper before serving.

IMG_6749As I said, not as pretty but I was very happy with the taste. We added a dollop of greek yogurt and it was a nice balance.Tomato Soup

Stock

With the end bits of what went into the soup, a few of the onion skins and tops and tails from the pickles plus having used up the last of my stock in the soup, it was time to make up some more stock. This is so satisfying and I haven’t bought stock for years now. It is so easy. As you prepare dishes any trimmings or bones etc just get tossed into a bag or container in the freezer and you add to it every time you have some. when the bag is full, pop the whole lot into the slow cooker (not the bag!) with some peppercorns (I don’t add salt) and let it simmer away overnight.

Slow cooker stockI notice this bag also had a chicken carcass in it from a roast chicken.

IMG_6737I now have about 5 litres of beautiful stock that I know what is in. The chook has had a great feed of pickings and the remainder of the cooked matter will go into the compost. Win, win all round!

Dehydrating

Years ago my friend bought a dryer and I have used it most seasons since to dry something or another. I usually do tomatoes then store them in Spanish olive oil with garlic and chilli and we eat them as a snack. This year though I am making tomato powder. I did this years ago and it was quite good. You dry the tomatoes really well then blitz in a processor and store the powder in a good air tight container and use it for seasoning as needed.

Drying tomatoesThe tomatoes after 6 hours in the dryer.

IMG_6755I love doing this with bananas. Buy them when cheap, slice and dip in lemon juice, dry and munch, munch, munch!

Last but not least-Seed saving

I put all of the dodgy bits of tomatoes and rough tops and bottoms into a bowl. There were loads of seed in some of them so I filled the bowl with water and will let them ferment for a few days then I will separate the seed from the pulp and dry and store the seed. Once the seed is removed the rest will go into the compost and the whole cycle begins again.

IMG_6760Next week or so will be passata time! Now that’s a fun thing to do in a limited kitchen. What are some of your best tomato saving tips?

 

Posted in Preserving, tomato pickles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Our hard work is becoming evident.

We are at a major turning point in our exteno. My emotions are mixed, I love the new works but I also love the old, original parts of the house that add quirkiness and character (along with some interesting odours!) to the personality of it. I really believe we are marrying the best of both periods to the home. Keeping as much as we can to stay true to the character of the house, while, still being practical about what works with our long term plans.

I was quite emotional when now tonight,  I can really begin to see the efforts of all the hard work coming to fruition. I’m not talking about the exterior, that is different, I mean the space inside that will become the warm hub of the home where people meet, food is created and lessons are taught to others. Drinks and eats around the table, laughter and probably tears. This is what I greeted me when I came out from the makeshift kitchen (see below) and it moved me. The plaster is well under way which means the last of the old black, 3ply ceiling is about to be hidden. The chimney brickwork is looking beautiful and the hours of work on removing the paint from that are proving to be worth it.

IMG_0247It was after I had spent a few hours tonight making some mini quiches to take to work tomorrow for a morning tea that it struck me for the first time just how arduous its been actually getting anything cooked. I think I must have a bit of ‘just suck it up and get on with it mindset’.  It isn’t until I try and turn out bulk quantities of food that it really gets to me. Do you have any idea how long it takes to turn 1 packet of puff pastry into mini quiches when you can only cook 6 at a time? Bloody ages is the answer.

IMG_6682 Mini quiches

But you do get there. While the quiches were cooking I put together a few loaves of bread that I will bake at work.

There is the herb, chilli and feta cheese loaf which comprised 400g  40% rye sourdough gently pulled out and spread with freshly picked herbs, feta cheese, a little cheddar (left over from quiches), and some hot chilli flakes. I’ve rolled this into a batard shape and will prove overnight and bake tomorrow.

Herb, feta chilli sourdough loaf breadNext was the walnut, cranberry, sultana and apple loaf. Chopped some walnuts, spread out 400g white sourdough and spread, walnuts, cranberries and sultanas that I had soaked in a little juice to rehydrate over it. I then sprinkled, brown sugar, dutch cinnamon and a grated Granny Smith apple (ours) which I had squeezed the excess juice from  and spread over the nuts and fruit.

IMG_6695then rolled the dough into a bun/scroll shape. This will also be baked at work tomorrow.

IMG_6697It’s nights like these I get extremely excited about being able to cook in a much more relaxed and organised manner. It really is quite an effort continuing the way we have been. I know everyone has been telling that, I just chose to ignore it and make do.

The final tweaking of the kitchen layout is done! It may have resulted in me having a MAJOR panic attack but we got there. That gap on the left is the chimney space.

IMG_0242It really does look like I’ll fit a bit more than I thought into the space. Can’t wait!

Posted in Bread, Home, Renovation, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Don’t go Eeeeew yet!

There is a reason it looks a bit ugly!Textured renderWe have had the external render applied and it looks rather weird at the moment.  Because the original finish on the house is textured, we opted to match it as best we could. The strange appearance you see in the shot above is because a layer of ‘spatter’ has been applied over the smooth render, then that’s been troweled to smoothe it off. Because this spatter layer is more cement than anything else it has a different colour to the render underneath. It reminds me of the old tramways or railway station toilets that were painted in 2 tone green! Once its painted it will come close to fitting in un-noticed with the original render.

IMG_6632There are two major jobs scheduled to start this week. The floor boards in the kitchen/dining area being laid and the plastering of all the walls and ceilings. The floor will become the  same level right through the entire room. The blue thing in the centre is where the sink will be. See how the original floor sits up about 60mm from the slab, that will all become one level.

IMG_6608Then there is the plastering. These 2 jobs will entirely change the feel of the entire space I am sure. I must admit to being a little melancholy last night, it took so long before we could get started and now we are going to the final stages it seems a little surreal. I will almost miss the horrid smell of rotten timber and the wondering about how things will look. For the first time in years, we are finding that having a space where we can have a dedicated table for people to gather and prop is proving a great addition. This space is already proving to be a natural gathering space, I love that!

IMG_6626 IMG_6605

Our first family dinner in this space went well (considering the conditions). I put a leg of lamb in the slow cooker, sat upon a bed of onions, a few tomatoes, some mint, rosemary and a blend of different peppercorns. I also did the obligatory slivers of garlic placed into the joint. I covered the leg with some foil to retain the steam and let it do it’s own thing for about 10 hours on low.

slow cooker roast lambI had been hankering for a traditional roast, but due to an ‘I can’t be bothered’ attitude and a quite obvious change to preferences, I opted for a blend of roast crossed with a pulled lamb style dish. I did normal roast veg, some roasted tomatoes in olive oil, pepper and a slurp of red wine vinegar. This is how you manage in a toy oven for space when doing this

IMG_6616

I made a yoghurt dip just by adding chopped mint to greek style yoghurt then drizzled it with garlic-infused olive oil, cooked some peas which the roast tomatoes and mint were mixed with. I drained the excess fat from the slow cooker juices, added a little red wine vinegar and blitzed it to make a juice (jus?) rather than make a heavy gravy. All these were set on the table with flatbread so whoever wanted the traditional roast could serve that and for those like me who wanted a wrap/pulled style meal I could just put what I wanted onto the flatbread, wrap and munch. That yoghurt, mint and garlic oil was a winner. I really enjoy this style of eating now as my dodgy hands always make me feel a bit self conscious when trying to tackle using a knife and fork. First of many family dinners in this new space I think!

IMG_6626In the garden it is obviously taking the turn to Autumn, yet I am still feeling the sting of Summer! It is bizarre, it feels as though it is cooling down then at 8.30pm the temp seems to rise and the humidity climbs back up. Not conducive to good sleeping patterns I’m sad to say.

The tomatoes are coming to an end, this has been a great season indeed for them.

IMG_6586Very excited to see how our floor and plastering shape up!

Posted in In The Garden, Renovation | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

In My Kitchen- Nothing really, but we had a darn good wedding :)

Well, we’ve had a wedding, visitors for the wedding staying, a post wedding luncheon, heating specialists, builders, plumbers, electricians all in and out. Haven’t known if I’m Arthur or Martha most of the time! Not much in the way of food I’m afraid…..

I have to share a couple of wedding snippets. Our younger son married his partner in a beautiful garden wedding ceremony on a spectacular day. The wedding ceremony was in the beautiful gardens of Springbank B&B Warragul. This was one hell of a wedding! Laughs, fun, catching up and way too much merriment on my part.

IMG_6510-001The service was followed by a reception at Warragul Country Club, great night was had by all!D&AOur daughter made the stunning wedding cake, not bad for a brand new mum of a six-week old. Flowers on the cake were made to match the wedding floral arrangements. This beautiful fudge cake was used as the dessert course of the reception. It tasted as good it looked I’m pleased to report.

IMG_0173Our new little grandson was decked out in his groovy ‘tux’ onesy. He was about to break into a yell here but mostly he coped really well for the entire night.

IMG_0177I got to have some precious hug time while our daughter joined in the merriment. He didn’t miss a beat and behaved brilliantly all night.

12419228_10154590187644237_3614922155547431600_oI was lucky enough to score one of the table flower arrangements. The most amazing chrysanthemums, gypsophila and I think hydrangea. Beautiful!
IMG_6554The day after the wedding we had about 30 here for lunch. It was very lucky that I had prepared so much in advance as my head was rather fuzzy, my feet, knees and hips were extremely sore due to ridiculous dancing moves that were OK 30 years ago but apparently can no longer be considered a sensible thing to do. I had visions of the Kel, Kath & Sharon dancing scenes from Kath & Kim episodes flash in front of my eyes.

For lunch on the Sunday it was simply a barbecue that I had made burgers for earlier in the week and froze. Some sausages, nothing flash, just basic ones from the butcher. The meat was served with my favourite Belinda’s Tomato Pickles that I’d made a half batch of earlier in the week and also home-made tomato sauce and mustard. I made several loaves of herb bread on the BBQ (lucky the dough was ready in the fridge), a couple of salads and lots of soft drink and water. I think it went down well!

Sourdough bread sticks Grilled onions, potato salad, my new favourite Freekah, hazelnut and roast capsicum salad and tomato, red onion, cucumber, red wine vinegar and olive oil with feta cheese salad. I didn’t get around to making the garlic croutons to serve with this.IMG_0205A well deserved nap in the hammock after everyone had left and we had done the dishes in this makeshift babies bath kitchen sink. I think this was dishes batch number 5!

IMG_6549The reno is still progressing well, we are just about to plaster. The second photo is the kitchen same wall from before we moved in just over 3 years ago. The kitchen ended where the old oven is and we have extended the whole area out. You can just see on the floor between the ladder and the clothes horse where the old floor is. The ladder is standing where the fridge will go and my real oven will be in between the windows. The floor will be wormy chestnut floorboards running right through the whole room. I’m a little bit excited!

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Kitchen cupboards. This makes us giggle as Sheila was 'knee high to a grasshopper' and we can hardly reach the first shelf let alone the ones that go up to the the original 11'6 ceilings. Under this bottom unit, the original brick cellar is still in place. This was used for storing, cheese, butter and milk before refrigeration was readily available. The old laundry hoist hooks are also still in the ceiling, this would have housed a pulley system where washing was put onto rails similar to a clothes horse and pulled up high where it captured the heat from the stove and dried. Once dry the rails would have been lowered and dry washing removed.

Kitchen cupboards. This makes us giggle as Sheila was ‘knee high to a grasshopper’ and we can hardly reach the first shelf let alone the ones that go up to the the original 12’6 ceilings. Under this bottom unit, the original brick cellar is still in place. This was used for storing, cheese, butter and milk before refrigeration was readily available. The old laundry hoist hooks are also still in the ceiling, this would have housed a pulley system where washing was put onto rails similar to a clothes horse and pulled up high where it captured the heat from the stove and dried. Once dry the rails would have been lowered and dry washing removed.

The tomato season has come to a sudden halt (apart from the plants in the greenhouse). They have all just turned up and withered almost overnight. Still plenty have fruit set that will ripen over time. I will pull the plants and hang them upside down in the shed. I couldn’t believe this monster! A Hungarian Heart variety that weight in at 614g, I had to cut the exclusion bag to get it out. What’s the biggest tomato you’ve produced?

Hungarian Heart huge tomato

Thanks to Maureen at Orgasmic Chef for linking those of us who like to peek into each others kitchens. I might go and check out some posts that actually have foodie stuff in them now. It’s not however every day you have a wedding to celebrate!

Posted in In My Kitchen, Renovation, sourdough, tomato pickles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments