Another Gingerbread House bites the dust!

I was going to keep this as part of my “In My Kitchen” post, but we were so happy with the way this demolition went I’m doing a separate post as my farewell to 2016.

As many of my followers know, it has become a tradition to come up with all sorts of weird and whacky ways to demolish the gingerbread houses I have been making as part of Christmas since 1982.

We have had lots of ‘smashing good’ fun over the years but it has been especially nice now we have the ability to record the ‘smashing’  as we can revisit the memories at anytime. I’ve spent a bit of time viewing old ‘smashings’ and it is a great trip down memory lane seeing everyone so young, all together for Christmas and  how things have changed and evolved over the years. I hope you enjoy this years smash, I’ve put it up from 2 different angles. We were particularly impressed with how the house landed almost back on the board. Our older son Cameron has been a key player over the years with leading the smash and he didn’t disappoint this year. We did leave plenty of clear space as a safety net for our little fella!

Gingerbread house 2017

Happy New Year and cheers to a great happy and safe 2017. Thanks for sharing your laughs, tips, stories and lives in 2016.

 

Maree

 

 

#gingerbreadhouse #family #tradition

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Christmas Eve Fare.

Christmas for me is about making time to get together with family and friends and celebrating how much we value having them in our lives. When I was little it was all about presents, although we were never as focussed on that as many families I knew. Usually just one or 2 special items and a couple of fillers.  I remember fondly the Christmas day gatherings of my family and my country cousins if they happened to be visiting for the season. I remember when sixpences were put in the pudding and there was a competition to see who accumulated the most value. I remember cherry spitting competitions and dangling pairs of cherries on your ears as earrings. I remember water fights and running under the sprinkler if it was hot. I remember mum stressing and chucking a wobbly the day dad threw out the pudding cloth. I remember being mesmerised by the beautiful tree lights, sitting or lying under them and just watching them sparkle. I still do this, I love sparkly Christmas tree lights!

Christmas tree lights We once again hosted a gathering on Christmas Eve for our friends and it was a great night. The aim of the night is to be very relaxed, to enjoy each others company and I like the opportunity to make a few treats for us to eat. A few of the dishes we had this year were,

Dumplings! Ever since I read Celia’s post about dumplings that led me to the Dumpling Sisters site, I now regularly make dumplings from scratch. They are so easy to make, a little time-consuming but easy and they taste so much better than the bought ones. I’ve posted about these a few times but I can’t help myself, they are so good and were a big hit on Christmas eve.

Dumplings

Dumplings with ginger soy dipping sauce

Dumplings

Dumplings, my pleating isn’t too bad considering.

Another dish I made was Midye dolma or stuffed mussels. I tasted these when we went to Turkey and have wanted to have a go at recreating them ever since we returned. You can find street food sellers right along the waterfront in Turkey and they sell thousands of them. The mussels are stuffed with a mixture made from rice, currants and spices then cooked and served with a squeeze of lemon juice. I used the recipe from Ozlems Turkish Table and they were a hit. I have to add though, it is no mean feat cleaning and opening 60 odd mussels to stuff with dodgy hands, I have a whole new level of respect for the vendors in Turkey! My hands are still suffering and sadly don’t think these will be a regular item.

Midye dolma-Anatolian stuffed mussels

Midye dolma-Anatolian stuffed mussels

I made some mini sourdough croissants and filled them with ham and cheese and served them warmed through, very nice and definitely a repeat again item. I used the sourdough croissant recipe from Shipton Mill and reduced the cut croissant size to 7-8 cm by 15 cm and they were just right for finger food size.

Mini sourdough croissantsI also made some mini sourdough ‘baklavants’, croissants with a baklava style filling and a honey and rosewater glaze but they didn’t make it out and are now in the freezer for another time. We did have a few on Christmas Day with breaky.baklavantOf course there was a couple of platters of general nibbles, marinated mushrooms, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, focaccia and other assorted sourdough bread (oops, no pics apart from the tiny snippet front right below).img_0538 And of course our favourite Indian Pakora made using the recipe from Annabel Langbein’s Free Range Cook Book. These would have to be one of the best vegetarian party foods you can present. I served them with a yogurt and mint sauce made simply by blending yogurt and mint together. These are now a much loved tradition every year and it is always a hit.

Pakora

Pakora

It was a delightful Christmas Eve, our little fella decided he loves spicy stuffed mussels (and everything else really). Very clever of him to work out you can use a mussel shell as a spoon too!img_0560 img_0571We thoroughly enjoyed the night and were very well behaved which meant we were able to enjoy Christmas Day as well! I’ll do a short post on that next. Unfortunately we didn’t get to catch up with everyone we had hoped to but that will be addressed in the New Year. I hope everyone else has had the pleasure of having such a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas, it’s been lovely having a kitchen to work in!

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Farewell to My Sunbeam Toy Oven-Pizza Bake N Grill Winner!

When we moved into this “new old house” in January 2013, it meant we didn’t have a real kitchen and had no idea it would take almost 4 years before we would  For all this time I have managed to create some pretty amazing dishes thanks to the little 19 litre capacity $80 or so Sunbeam Pizza Bank N Grill Oven which I affectionately have referred to in my posts as my ‘Toy Oven’.Sunbeam pizza bake and grill ovenI decided to buy this just in case it took a little longer than anticipated to do our renovations, I would have been burnt at the stake as a witch in mediaeval times, it took so much longer than anticipated. This little oven along with 2 butane gas camping stoves, our hooded BBQ  (Sunbeam as well as it turns out), a larger gas ring for big jobs like preserving and tomato passata, 2 slow cookers and we haven’t missed out on anything, even making our own sourdough bread very week.

New gas cookerWell, now that I have my beautiful new Falcon double oven with 5 gas burners, I can bid my ‘Toy Oven’ a fond farewell. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to keep it to take when we go camping (if there is power supply) or to piff it but that seems wasteful when it still works (and oh so well!). Unfortunately the poor thing is in such a preloved state that it isn’t up to scratch to offer to someone or donate to charity. It may even become the mud pie oven for when kids are in the back yard.

I cannot believe how well this little oven has performed over these few years, my only negative comment is that I could only make a couple of things at a time, so large quantities when required of biscuits, muffins, party foods like sausage rolls and mini quiche had to be made at my daughters place or at work. Luckily those times were few and far apart so not too much of an issue.

Thought I’d honour this little ‘Toy Oven’ recapping and revisiting some of the food it has churned out for us over the last few years.

My first bake in the oven was spinach and ricotta muffins, tick.Spinach ricotta muffinsSome mini pavlovas served with brandy snaps and fruit. See, only 6 at a time can be cooked.Mini pavlova Mini Pavs in tin

Many small roasts and meals where the meat was cooked in the slow cooker and the veggies roasted in the little oven have been made. This was Dorper lamb we bought in South Australia cooked in the slow cooker and veg in the ‘toy oven’.Roast Dorper Lamb I even sterilised some jars prior to preserving food. These were used for bottling some Christmas Puddings, very successful!Sunbeam Pizza Bake N GrillMany batches of potato, kale and feta rolls.Kale, Potato and Feta rollsThe most amazing slow cooked quince I have ever tasted, this was delicious!Slow Roasted Quince Quince RecipeSometimes fitting cookware in was a challenge. This slice tin was made to fit with the aid of a spanner or such.Making tin fitand you couldn’t quite fit the Dutch Oven in with the lid on.Dutch Oven in Toy OvenSometimes I had to split cooking methods, like here where the meat was done in the ‘Toy oven’ and the veg in the BBQ.Roast lamb Jamie OliverSome more meringues but I was getting better at fitting in more than 6 in a muffin tray. I got  7 in by using the pizza tray.Nigel Slater cinnamon meringueI still managed to bake the pieces that I use to assemble my Christmas gingerbread house in.Gingerbread house 2014 Gingerbread house piecesMany different varieties of foccacia.Peter Reinhart foccaciaTarts, this is a blood plum tart.Blood Plum Tartand my all time favourite, lemon tart. alice-medrich-lemon-tartPies or in this case, piesties.Piestiesand of course my passion, sourdough bread.Barbecue breadEven with only having had this little ‘toy oven’ I managed to turn out 2-3 loaves, sometimes more, of sourdough bread every week. I would not have believed this unit was capable of being such a great unit until I tried it. There has been white, wholemeal, rye, fruit, grainy, pumpernickel, hot cross buns, baguette, pizzas, bread sticks, flat breads and more. The only way I could bake in this toy oven was to use a Dutch Oven, this reduced the exposure of the dough to the heating elements thus reducing the likelihood of it becoming toast before it was even cooked. I also faced the challenge that the lid didn’t fit in because the handle/knob just made the unit too large for the baking chamber. I remedied this by removing the knob and filling the hole with some bread dough. Every now and again I would replace the dough and it worked extremely well.

Dough plug Dutch OvenThere are so many more great things that have been churned out by this little oven and I have really enjoyed revisiting the relevant posts. I am so appreciative of the beautiful space and equipment I have now, it is hard to understand how I managed to create anything really.

There were a few times when I was taking bread to a party or we were entertaining here that I needed to resort to using the Sunbeam barbecue for baking bread. I got the method pretty well down pat after a few attempts and would happily bake this way again if necessary. I will admit though, it has knocked the poor old barbecue hot plates and grill around. I might end up keeping this unit just for bread. We’ll see.Sunbeam BBQ Bread Sunbeam BBQ BreadWell, the poor little old ‘toy oven’ is nowhere near as pretty as she was a few years ago but by goodness, what a run she has had! I don’t think these units were designed to get quite the workout that this one has had. I think the price is now up around the $120.00 mark but if you need a unit that is versatile, reliable and fun to use I can’t recommend this highly enough. Thanks, my little ‘toy oven’, it been fun.

sunbeam-pizza-bake-n-grill

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In My Kitchen December.

Well the month started with a landmark birthday for me so to celebrate we headed to Echuca on the Murray River to take charge of a houseboat for 7 nights. Myself, Mr ATMT, my 3 sisters, brother-in-law, our 2 closest friends and our 2 sons (interchanged throughout the week) spent some lovely hours doing absolutely nothing apart from eating, swimming, drinking, dozing and playing games. Unfortunately our daughter couldn’t make it as they were in Hawaii and were delayed getting back.

Brittania on The MurraySunset starting to roll in.img_3539 Most nights we just ate, played games, had a few drinks and did lots of laughing while the cockies squawked loudly around us.img_1243

In My Houseboat Kitchen.

We ate like kings! Unfortunately I seem to have waylaid a few photos but I can share the Finnish Flaxseed Sourdough load that was made from the recipe Francesca over at Almost Italian had posted, this loaf was delicious and I have been requested to make more and more and more. The recipe was spot on which always makes me happy!

Finnish Flaxseed Sourdough

I had packed some basic supplies and ran a mini ‘how to’ session for making sourdough. The house boat had a gas oven that wasn’t all that good at keeping in the heat so it needed some assistance. You do what you have to do!oven-doorThe loaf actually turned out pretty well considering, but I have had a bit of experience cooking in a dodgy or even without an oven.bread-on-boatWe had a butterflied lamb leg that my sisters purchased at the sensational butcher in Yae. The meat from there was some the best I’ve had in a very long time, roast BBQ’d lamb, lovely fresh asparagus and salad and we were happy campers on a boat.

roast-on-houseboatI was blown away by this lemon & ginger cheesecake that my niece made and was brought along by my sister as a surprise birthday celebration. It was delicious and I kept sneaking a piece every day when no one was around.img_0131-001 I took a batch of Glenda’s orange muffins as these have become somewhat addictive for us. I had made and frozen them to take, they really last the distance very well. Not sure what made me place it on the BBQ to take a picture of, but here it is, looking back at the Murray River before it gets gobbled up.img_0184-001 Before we left I made a batch of sourdough croissants with the intention of taking them with us.img_1161They didn’t make it away and they were delicious!Sourdough croissants Finally In My Kitchen back at home was the making of the Christmas pudding. As is tradition at our place, whoever is around has to have a stir for luck. Look who I found! I’m loving having our grandson around, you turn into complete idiots entertaining him and I love every minute of it!

Pudding stirring

Pudding stirring

Thanks to Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things who takes the time to link us all together for these peeks into what goes on in other kitchens.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Christmas and holiday season. I’m pretty excited about having a kitchen to entertain and cook in this year! 🙂 

 

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A quick whip around the patch.

I haven’t done a post for a while on what’s happening in the veggie patch/garden. This is most likely because I haven’t really been doing much out there. With us now being into the third season of establishing the garden, we are finding that it is much more about maintenance rather than building new areas. We are still working on developing paths, contemplation spots and have yet to start tackling the front yard so it won’t be all sit back and relax for a while yet.

Peeking into the greenhouse.

I have a couple of sugar baby watermelon seedlings that appear to be happy and growing well. These may just take over the entire greenhouse!

Sugar baby watermelon

Sugar baby watermelon

One of last years capsicum has over-wintered well and is throwing flowers with some baby caps appearing, this is much earlier than usual.

Capsicum flowering

Capsicum flowering

I have taken some cuttings from the perennial Rocoto chilli and these seem to be quite successful. I’ve used the method similar to planting laterals that are removed from tomatoes that grow so well.

Rocoto cutting

Rocoto cutting

There is a flower on the mature Rocoto Chilli. It was very rude and wouldn’t look at the camera!

Rocoto flower

Rocoto flower

Out in the Patch

The flowers on my Souvenir de la malmaison rose have suffered badly from the excessive amounts of rain we have experienced but it is growing nicely.

Souvenir de la Maison Rose

Souvenir de la malmaison Rose

I have however, had some good results from the roses in the laneway but I didn’t get a good photo. The lilac is magnificent! First time flowering this year and I am in love.

Lilac

Lilac

This years garlic crop is looking terrific.

Garlic 2016

Garlic 2016

The shiitake mushrooms are giving the best yield in quite a few years. I think the high rain and humidity is just what they demand.

Shiitake

Shiitake

I have some baby figs, YAY!

img_0045and some baby apples.

Apple babies

Apple babies

This button lettuce is proving to be a lovely variety. It is working well as a ‘pick as you need’ lettuce and bounces back quickly. The silver beet and kale behind it is all that remains from the last planting. I need space for tomatoes!

img_0059In the berry house, the raspberries, loganberries and thornless blackberries are all flowering profusely.

Berry house

Berry house

and the grapevine is starting to cover the climbing frame on the roof well with lots of grape clusters evident.

Grape vine

Grape vine

I have some pretty little daisies that bees and hoverflies just love and it is making me smile every time I see it.

Happy daisies

Happy daisies

All in all, it’s looking pretty good.

img_9909I trimmed a lot of the parsley stalks that were threatening to seed, picked some lemons from our new tree, found some beetroot I didn’t know about (too woody for roasting but I think it will be ok as a dip), some new potatoes, some self sown garlic, mint and herbs and we had enough to throw into a salsa verde for tea.

Harvest pickings

Harvest pickings

A  peek in the new bedroom.

I have decided that I will now continue working in one room at a time and it will be completely finished before I move onto the next (please remind me of my pledge when I stray). We always seem to fall into the trap of saying “we will get back to that” and it takes a very long time to get back, but no more. I am absolutely going to follow through on this! This is the new spare (guest) bedroom that was part of the exteno. Painting is almost finished, carpet is booked for laying,

img_1023We have rehung the old kitchen door on this room and that needs to be repaired and painted. Mr ATMT did the skirting in the robe space this afternoon so that now needs painting. I absolutely love this colour. The walls are Taubman’s Raincloud and the ceiling and trim is Dulux Classic White. img_1024 I have almost finished painting the window and it is looking great. The radiator that was in the old room before demolition has been cleaned and polished. This was pain, one of those jobs where you use a knitting needle with a cloth over the end to get into all the little nooks and crannies but worth it.img_1022I am already becoming aware while I write, that there will be one unfinished part of this room and that is internal fit out of the wardrobe. We will use a set of the shelving units we had in the temporary kitchen  I think. They are really good and will leave some options for the final design.

What jobs do you leave until you put the house on the market?

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Corporate responsibility to advertise sustainability.

I’ve just had a little dummy spit! Watching commercial TV (that’s not all that common at our place), I have just seen an ad by Harris Scarfe where the message is clearly promoted that when something is a bit too hard to clean, a bit grubby, needs a repair, maybe you don’t like it anymore or for some other reason, you just chuck it in the land fill bin (complete with a plastic bin liner!). The example in this ad that really got me steamed was the steel frying pan that needed a little bit of elbow grease as it has lost its sparkle, was just tossed into the bin. I think it is time all advertising should be required to be responsible in the presentation of their message to ensure they promote responsible, sustainable options for purchasing, using and disposal of both the packaging and any items that are past their prime.

Australia is in the top five of rubbish creators in the world, lets knock that on the head. Not a stat to be proud of.

It would not take much effort to adapt advertising to trigger thoughts like ‘take it to the op-shop’, encourage reduce, reuse and recycle positively and if they really want to take some responsibility, accept items back and re-distribute them into community organisations. Greenpeace have some wonderful tips on living more sustainably, check them out here.

Reduce Reuse Recycle

It is really important to trigger a change of thinking in people and marketing has  significant opportunity of power in doing this. Unfortunately, over the years the message sold has created some pretty severe environmental issues and high carbon footprints by promoting the disposable lifestyle many live by.

Plastic water bottles, disposable single use plastic, and packaging are making a huge impact on the environment and it cannot continue as it is not sustainable. Communities are now having to deal with how we deal with things like this.

landfill_compactor_fr_closeIt shouldn’t be too hard, people just need to be educated by seeing examples and advertising is a great way to do this. Things like showing a donation box that things go into rather than the landfill bin, use a compost bin or worm farm for food scraps to go in and minimising  packaging.

Which ads rile you with their lack of sustainable responsibility?

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In My Kitchen November-

Might need a cuppa for this, I’ve rambled on a bit!

It is really Spring, but we keep going back to winter and then back to Spring repeatedly. I was going to start this post saying I think Spring is well and truly here but it’s currently 11 degrees with 30km per hour wind and it feels like it could snow up on the hills. I have deferred planting my tomatoes for a week or two, hoping to see some improvement. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing well, but everything else in the veggie patch is way behind its normal schedule so I don’t have the space for tomatoes free quite  yet.

In My Kitchen  is all I have left from last years garlic harvest.

Garlic sproutingIt has lasted really well but there are signs of sprouting so I went through the remaining bulbs and discarded any that were soft and had sprouts showing. The remainder I have placed in the fridge to delay shooting (theoretically) hoping that this years harvest will soon be ready.

In My Kitchen this month are a few goodies I bought while in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. Last year I bought some smaller clay dishes after Celia wrote about them and I love them but they are a little too small for a whole serving per person. I bought these at Chef’s Hat in Melbourne. I love this store, they have an amazing array of cooking gear for both commercial and domestic purposes.

img_9966 I grabbed a bottle of this gorgeous smelling Turkish Rosewater from Sonsa Foods in Collingwood. It is a freshener and smells just like when you used to make rose-water from pulling the precious heads from your mums best roses and mixing them with water in a jar. The description vaguely translates as “A Turkish toilet waters (Kolonya), as it should be. Pleasantly refreshing, not too pushy and a fragrance that makes happy. the EST Kolonya “Hatiralar” smells fine and gently green leaves, rose, water flowers, Indian grass, sandalwood and some sweet fragrances. The refreshments for the start of the day and also in between for the face, neck or hands”.  I broke the rule of not buying plastic but I just couldn’t resist it.img_9968 I love this little find I had at the Turkish Suppliers in Campbellfield. This is a Guvec, a Turkish clay pot that is glazed inside and is used for cooking stews and casseroles. It can be used in the oven and on the stove top. I just love its simplicity and rustic look.img_9970 Then there is the Sucuk. This is a spicy beef cured sausage and will be going into gozleme, on top of pizza and just for nibbling on. It is often served in Turkey as part of the breakfast dishes. img_9974 and I couldn’t resist a couple of bottles of Sulcer Biba, or pepper paste. I find I am using this more and more as you would tomato paste. It really adds a delicious depth and zing to dishes. This one is a mild version but I also got a hotter one.img_9976I stocked up on chicken feet and chicken pieces at the Footscray market. I bag these up, freeze them and make fresh stock when needed. Our older son was suffering with a good dose of tonsillitis so I made up a care kit package for him. I made chicken stock, turned this into some chicken soup loaded with vegies, made some sourdough bread and a couple of rolls. This along with some freshly squeezed orange juice and I felt like a ‘real mum’ again.

Chicken Soup Care KitI had a few things that needed to be used up in the fridge so we ended up with a roast capsicum, broccoli, broad bean, bacon and greek yogurt quiche. I made the shortcrust pastry using a recipe Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella had  posted and it is beautiful. I did cook this a little too hot, still tweaking with the oven.Red pepper quicheThis was accompanied with a salad I made using coarse bulgur rather than the smaller variety. It is basically a tabouleh but using red capsicum instead of tomato (no decent tomatoes around yet). Soak 1/2 cup of burgul  into hot water until fluffy, add a good splash of olive oil, juice of a lemon plus another half (maybe) S&P, fry off a red capsicum and an onion until slightly soft. Chop a very generous handful of mint, parsley and mix all together. Adjust tang to your liking by adding either more lemon or oil. Top 10 list for us!Capsicum TaboulehI finally got the chance to use my ‘Big Bertha’ (almost 3 wine bottles long) rolling-pin when making the pastry.  It is impressive I must say and did a great job in a flash.img_9946 I got to add a few treasures to the sideboard, still have to do the door and drawer knobs, they are on the list…..img_9934 Nearly finished, hang in there!

In my kitchen is some Oolong tea or as we have now named it, Rabbit Poo Tea. We drink a lot of tea and this is a good way of going through the ceremony without consuming the added sugar we have with our strong black tea.  This is a sample pack and I have arranged for Tea Leaves to now fill my BYO container at the store. Tea Leaves  is an incredible tea shop that really needs to be seen to be believed.img_9952There are a couple of loaves of sourdough, these are sesame seed loaves. I simply toasted a cup of sesame seed and added to the dough and rolled a few on the surface before baking, it smells wonderful. Sesame Seed sourdoughI have been crocheting some shopping bags. I bought some 8 ply cotton from Bendigo Woollen Mills and am really thrilled with how they have turned out. These, along with some dish cloths, might make up some Christmas gifts I think. The pattern for the red one can be found here. The pattern for the green one, here.

Market bags crochetedFinally, In My Kitchen this month is this gorgeous little fella! Now 10 months old and discovering that pasta is not only tasty but fun!CharlieThanks to Liz over at BizzyLizzyGoodThings for being the “In My Kitchen” link up host. It is a great way to see what people are up to and get some great ideas along the way. What’s happening in your kitchen this month?

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