Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Irish Cupcakes

Okay these aren't your average cupcakes. To be honest they're not cupcakes at all - but I'd spent too long calling them "those potato pastry bacon things" and decided they needed a better name.

I can't claim credit for these - they were originally introduced to me from my pal Sandra - and they're amazingly simple and extraordinarily delicious.

Irish Cupcakes

Frozen puff pastry
6 potatoes
1 tub of cream cheese
4 strips of bacon

Okay to get started you grab some frozen puff pastry, let it thaw out a little and slice each sheet into nine squares. Push the squares into greased muffin trays.

Then, in a saucepan, make some mashed potato. Add in the cream cheese and the butter (obviously the more you add, the more delicious but less healthy they become). Add salt and pepper to taste and spoon the potato mash into the pasty cups.

Sprinkle the cups with chopped up chives and add a small strip of bacon to each one. Then pop them in a 170 degree oven until they get crispy and golden.

They're perfect for picnics or parties where you need to bring along some finger food. 

I guarantee that at least three people will ask you for the recipe.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Doing Things The Hard Way (ie Raised Veggie Garden Borders)

Do you ever feel like you end up doing everything the hard way? First you do it the quick way and then you do it another way and then you do it the right way?

In this instance I'm talking about our veggie garden. I've put in a lot of work over the past two years planting out different varieties, building up the soil, endlessly weeding and defending it all against the constant threat of possum decimation.

And it's been great - but I'm about to start it all again from scratch.

Despite always knowing that raised beds are popular for a good reason - we've ploughed on with our ground level patch. Until two weeks ago when Mr Tchotchke decided it was high time we not only properly edged but also raised our little patch, and not one to do things by halves, I decided we should probably carry the edging along my rose bushes, fruit trees, and another little garden bed too just for good measure.

So after careful measuring, plotting, planning and purchasing... Mr T went ahead and did all the hard work.

Doesn't it look great?

I gotta say, I'm so proud of him... for someone with zero construction experience he's done pretty damn well.

After searching for soil suppliers on a few gardening websites I somehow got sidetracked into reading a debate on whether it's safe to use treated pine sleeper on veggie gardens - and of course got totally nerve-wracked on the whole issue. (the above sleepers are treated pine).

So my next job is to line the inside of the sleepers with builders plastic, and then shift the frangipani tree, rip out the remaining plants (maybe the banana tree too?) and then fill the whole thing up with new soil and compost.

Easy huh? (I kinda wish we'd done it this way from the start.)

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mystery Succulent Flower

I love a good mystery - don't you?

This little potted succulent was a leftover from the previous owner of the house. It's a little battler - it withers and shrinks and then comes back again, and has flowered each year with this bulbous purple lone flower.

To be honest it kind of freaks me out - once upon a time I worked on film about flesh eating vines, and they had waxy flowers that lured people to their death...(yah not exactly an award winner)... and I think it reminds me of them...

It also kind of reminds me of a banana flower - this one's on our tiny banana tree near the chicken coop - here's hoping that the bananas get a little bigger.

Anyway - my google searches haven't come up with anything - so if you know what my mystery succulent is please let me know!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Secret to Inner Peace Is...

...Sorting out your tupperware cupboard.

Ahh, that's better.

Somehow getting on top of a little task like this just helps calm down my inner cranky control freak just a little. She won't mind if I just schoomze on the couch watching 30 Rock back to back now...

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Rot n Roll: Our New Compost Tumbler

These days everyone has a Tumblr. Well I've gone one step further and got one in my backyard. (groan!)

We've persevered with our current compost box for over two years now with underwhelming results, so I didn't feel too guilty splashing out on a whizz bang tumbler when I spotted this one on Deals Direct (sorry for not including a link but I can't find it on their site now?) I've always read amazing claims like "compost in 6 weeks!" on tumblers like this - so I've got high hopes.

It's not actually too horrible looking, which is always a plus. And it seems to be doing a good job so far. The compost is moist, but not smelly.

Here's a sneak peek...

I need it to churn out a load of lovely compost quick smart - I've got a poinsettia on our fence line that needs a growth spurt of another metre to block out our new neighbours from view...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Summer Deck Update

So this is pretty much where I spent this weekend.

It's like Brisbane just suddenly realised it's February and it better turn up the temperature. It's been a real stinker of a weekend.

I've spent a bit of time peering over the deck railings and making mental lists of all the jobs that need to be done in the garden and then plopping down on the lounge totally at peace with the fact that none of them are going to get done today.

We picked up the outdoor lounge on sale at Freedom a few weeks ago - I thought it was a bit of a shame to get it at the end of the summer, but it's been brilliant and it's really encouraged us to get outside and utilise the deck a bit more. When I come home from work and stretch out on it I somehow don't feel as guilty as I would lying in front of the TV.

And although Mr Tchotchke loves it too I think he regards it as a new battleground for his ongoing war against over-cushioning..

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Paleo Carrot Cake: Cavemen Deserve Treats Too

To treat myself for making it through four weeks of Paleo eating I whipped up a little Paleo Carrot Cake on the weekend.

It really didn't hold a candle to my favourite ever carrot cake at Bourke st Bakery in Sydney, but for a Paleo interpretation it was pretty good.

I started off with a recipe from Make It Paleo, but adapted it and reduced some of the quantities when I realised that their carrot cake probably cost $40 in ingredients... Here's my interpretation.

Alecia's Paleo Carrot Cake

3 carrots, grated
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup coconut flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
15 pitted dates
5 eggs
2 tbsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
small tub of cream cheese
1 tsp ground ginger
a few walnuts to garnish

1) In a bowl, pour 1/2 cup of maple syrup and 1/4 cup water over grated carrots and pop in the fridge for an hour.
2) In a mixmaster bowl, combine sifted coconut flour cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
3) In a microwave safe bowl, add 1/4 cup water to the pitted dates and microwave for 30 seconds. Mash the mixture with a fork and then microwave for another 30 seconds and then mash again.
4) Add the mashed date mix to the flour mixture, and then add eggs, vanilla and coconut oil. Mix well.
5) Remove bowl from mixer and add the maple syrup marinated carrots. Fold through.
6) Grease a round springform pan with coconut oil and pour in the batter.
7) Bake in a 175 degree (Celsius) oven for 35 mins or until your skewer comes out clean.
8) In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese with 1/4 cup maple syrup and the ground ginger, and then when cake has cooled, frost cake with cream cheese icing and garnish with smashed walnuts.

If you're used to massively sugary carrot cakes then this isn't going to cut the mustard - but if you've been living on meat, veggies and green smoothies for four weeks then this is actually pretty good.

If I was going to make it again and wasn't being so Paleo-strict, I'd add 1/2 cup self raising flour so that it would raise a little more, and a little bit of icing sugar to the cream cheese frosting because I found the paleo version borderline savoury - but otherwise it was delish. 

And since it was so god-damn healthy I didn't feel guilty polishing off a few slices to celebrate nothing really particular on a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A Pasta Fiend Goes Paleo

So I've been conducting a little experiment. A little food experiment - a Palaeolithic experiment to be exact.

I'd read a bit about eating "Paleo" - but I think it was this post on Sarah Wilson's blog that kicked me into gear and inspired me to give it a try. I've been having a few issues with my skin and thought I'd see if it made any difference, as most anti-inflammatory diets are no dairy and no wheat.

"Paleo" eating takes things a little further - with strict followers consuming no dairy, no grains and no legumes (so no corn, no beans, no peanuts - the list goes on). So basically you just eat lots of meat, fish, fruit and veggies. The rationale is that our bodies aren't designer to easily digest dairy, grains and legumes, and we should eat like paleolithic people did.

I bought the above book "Make it Paleo" and set out to give Paleo eating a try for a month.

As an avid pasta lover I predicted I wouldn't last a week - but actually surprised myself by how relatively easy it was. I've just finished four weeks - and although I allowed myself a few little cheats on the weekend (rice at asian restaurants, doughnuts at the markets..) to keep myself sane - I reckon I've been at least 90% paleo.

And what's the result? Well, I feel more energetic, less hungry all the time, and I think its improved my skin. I think planning ahead was a big part of getting me through four weeks - and "Make It Paleo" was really great for simple mid week lunch and dinner ideas.

Am I going to stick with it? Kind of. I'm going to try and keep it up on weekdays and continue to allow myself a little more freedom on the weekends. Because god I miss pasta. And cheese. And I'm sure even Paleolithic cavewomen treated themselves once in a while.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Surprise Harvest

I've gotten a bit disheartened with our veggie patch of late. My cucumber seedlings got scratched out by naughty chicken feet. My zucchini seedlings got eaten by rogue possums. My pumpkin vine shrivelled up and died. Ditto the choke vine. Ditto the corn. My chia plant still fails to produce any seeds. My two lone passionfruit are MIA.  My chillies are on strike. Sigh.

Sometimes its easy to get discouraged, when all the hard work fails to pay off. Sometimes you're too tired, too hot, too hungover - there are too many weeds to pull, too many grasshoppers to battle.

But sometimes a veggie patch is still generous enough to offer up some treats, despite the fact you've wilfully neglected it for weeks on end.

The sweet potatoes were a welcome surprise in a corner that I thought I'd harvested months ago. And the lemongrass might be a bitch to pull out but it's so low maintenance it can be forgiven. And the wee butternut pumpkin was the lone survivor of a vine that could't handle the summer heat. But it was so cute it finally motivated me to get back into the patch and sow some more seeds.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Taschen's The Vegetable Garden

Mr T hit it out of the ball park this Christmas.

Oh yeeeah! As soon as I ripped open the wrapping and saw the Tashsen logo I squealed a little.

There's a lovely flip through pamphlet with a blurb on gardening and the key for each image..

...and then 46 divine fine art prints of veggies!

They're pretty huge and did I mention there were 46 of them! I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with them yet - there's a wall in the kitchen that I could potentially frame 6 or 8 of them, otherwise I was thinking of maybe dotting them around our spare room so that future poppets would grow up with a love for illustrated veggies. Our veggie patch is very dry and unproductive at the moment so I think I'll just be admiring these veggies for a little while instead.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Pineapple Protection

I spotted this sign at the community garden at Davies Park whilst at the West End markets a fortnight ago.

I do my fair share of complaining about losing produce to possums and chickens - so I can certainly empathise with them. I missed the markets this weekend so I'm eagerly awaiting next Saturday to see if the little piney is still holding on.

I especially love the post script - if you can't make it out, it reads "ps - please, stop stealing this sign."
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