Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Lunchbox #1

In an effort to inspire myself a little more when making my daughter's school lunches, thus begins "Friday Lunchbox".  Hope you feel inspired too!

Here is today's...

Morning Tea - fresh strawberries, stove popped popcorn (gotta love those Nude Food Movers containers)
Lunch - Stromboli and banana (yes those are butterfly and flower stickers on that banana, Miss 5 gets all excited when she finds those)
Drink - Water (not pictured)

The stromboli recipe comes from this book...

...which I picked up a number of years ago at one of those discount book places that pop up in the middle of shopping malls every now and then.  Basically a stromboli is like a pizza which is rolled up, baked and sliced.  YUM!

Here's how you make it.


Easy Bread Base Ingredients
2 tspn dried yeast
1 cup plus 2 tblspn warm water
2 tspn sugar (I used caster sugar)
1 tspn salt
2 tblespn olive oil
3 cups of high grade/bread flour

Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
Measure the first 5 ingredients and 1 cup of flour into a large bowl.  Mix until well combined.  Cover bowl and leave for 15 minutes.  Stir in remaininig flour (adding extra if necessary) to make dough just firm enough to knead.  Knead for 10 minutes, then return to bowl, cover and rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Roll dough into a very large thin rectangle (sorry about the poor picture quality here, it was a gloomy day and the indoor lights just didn't cut it!)

Top like a pizza (use toppings SPARINGLY).

I used a sachet of Fountain Pizza Sauce, about 1/4 red capsicum, 1 mushroom, 1/2 brown onion, 10 kalamata olives, fresh basil, Masterfoods "Italian Dried Herbs" and about a half cup of grated cheddar cheese.  I chopped the capsicum, mushroom and onion very finely as Miss 5 won't eat them if they are chunky, whereas she loves the olives in bigger pieces.

Before the cheese...

After the cheese...

Roll the dough up and press any openings firmly shut.  Slash the top diagonally to prevent splitting, then bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden.  If it is cooked all the way through, the stromboli should sound hollow when you tap it on the top.

Before cooking...


You can see it's a little mishapen on the left side near the base (toward the top of the photo) - it actually split a little.  I will make the cuts on top a bit deeper next time as the ones I made just seemed to seal up rather than open to let the heat and moisture out.  It was no biggie though - as I didn't overstuff the inside, not much came out.

And here is the final product...

It's completely delicious and despite my dodgy oven, an absolute success - the bread is lovely and soft (kneading the full 10 minutes really helps here) and I know I'm going to have lots of fun experimenting with the fillings.

If you get the time, do try it - I'd love to hear how you go!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If I Were A Busker #2

Check this out - the official unofficial video for Train's "Hey Soul Sister"  (a song I can never get out of my head once I hear it). Apparently some of their friends put it together for them.  I think I like it better than the official one!!  And it's such a happy little ditty that it makes it to my busker list, no questions asked.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Book Depository, Awesome Book Haul and Great Blogs to Check Out!

Have you heard about the Book Depository?  If you love books and have (like me, until recently) never heard of them, then you should definately check them out!!  While I always try my best to buy locally, books are such a luxury item for me that I'm happy to go with what's cheapest.  And although it's a UK site, not only can I view my purchases in Aussie dollars, they also offer free worldwide shipping!!

The prices are pretty fantastic too - everything I've purchased so far is at least around half the price of what I would have spent if I'd hopped in my car, driven to the local shopping centre, physically walked into a bookstore and purchased the books myself.  While I don't get that instant gratification factor, it is heaps of fun to have the delivery guy turn up in a big van when you least expect it and drop a parcel of lovely books on the doorstep!  They are pretty prompt (both my previous deliveries have taken around a week or so) and did I mention the free worldwide shipping??  They don't have many reviews on the site and no "Look Inside" feature like Amazon so since my book purchases are something that I tend to agonize over I usually check out the books thoroughly on Amazon or in person in a bookstore before purchasing through them.

Here's a pic of my most recent haul...

I'm laughing at the nanna-ish-ness of The Australian Women's Weekly "Easy Baking" but I had actually borrowed a slightly more modern looking version of it from my local library only to have to give it back when I went to renew as someone else had placed a hold on it. (Am I the only person who always forgets to return library books until they receive an overdue notice in the mail?  Whoops!)  And I'd only managed to find time to make a few of the recipes!! (Oooh that coconut lime slice...YUM!)  And I totally can't wait to use those great Cath Kidston stickers and stationery...there is just not enough snail mail happening in the world these days.  Also, something else there is not enough of - FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING!!!  Hahahahaha...hmmmm.

Moving on, I've also added a couple of great blogs in my sidebar under "Home and Children". There they are, down the screen on your right hand side!  Or, if you are feeling lazy, in the next sentance! They are "Made by Joel""SouleMama" and "Mini eco".  I've been visiting them for a long time now as they always have wonderful, creative and inspirational stuff to share.  If you work with or have your own young children, they are all worth a visit and a good browse!  Let me know what you think about them - I'm pretty sure you'll be bookmarking them in no time!


Edited to add: I just received an email from the Book Depository - they are looking for new customers and will send a 10% off voucher to anyone I refer via email while they are holding their birthday celebrations.  This is a limited offer so if you'd like a 10% off voucher to try them out, pop your email in the comments section and I will sign you up.  They will not keep your email address or bother you with spam after they've sent your voucher 'cause they're nice like that.  And I'd really love you to use it 'cause for every voucher that gets used, I get sent a voucher too!!  So PLEEEEEASE try them, you'll be pleased with the great prices and service AND you'll be helping out my book addiction too!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I love looking through all the beauty and crafty goodness there is in the world of other people's blogs and online shops and design and decor sites.  So many gorgeous colour combinations, so many beautiful ideas, so many talented people.  Most of the time it's really inspiring.  It makes me want to get off my behind and get going with creating some crafty aesthetic of my own.  To get a move on with all the projects I've already got started so I too can say "Look what I made!" and feel really satisfied that I've created something worthy.

But lately all the looking makes me feel a little less capable and a little more like I won't ever be "as good" or "as talented" or come up with anything original at all because there are so many people out there who are doing it all so well already, so really, what is the point of even trying?

I think what I need to do is start being really active about creating and (as much fun as it is) limit the amount of time I spend checking out what everyone else is doing.  Because before I know it, it tends to swallow up a lot of time. And then there ends up being not so much time for the creativeness which is trying ever so hard to magic it's way out if me.

I'm gonna be my own inspiration.  Create some goals and get things done.  It's time there was a little more organisation and completion and a little less clutter and "out of control".  I'll still check out my favourite sites - there is always a place for those.  But then it will be straight on with my own stuff.

And since I've just told you all about it, I am now accountable.

I'll let you know how I get on!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How Does My Garden Grow...And The Best Pie Recipe Ever.

Well, now that the school holiday madness is over I can finally get back to some blog love!

Even though it's the middle of winter here, my vegetable patch is coming along quite nicely right now with a multitude of healthy deliciousness just waiting to ripen or to be picked and eaten.

Growing up with migrant parents from farming backgrounds who've always grown their own foods, I've always known that the stuff you grow yourself beats the stuff you buy from the supermarket, hands down, for quality, flavour and freshness.  But having my own child now means that it's even more important to me that my family eat produce of the highest standard, not only to keep us healthy but to help little growing bodies be the best that they can be.

Growing up, I was always a little embarrassed that my parents grew their own vegetables.  No one else I knew did this and who doesn't want to be the same as everyone else as a kid?  I was already the little dark haired, dark eyed, olive skinned girl with the home-sewn uniform in a sea of blondes, light browns and red heads who only owned and ate store bought stuff.  To then have a family that did things so differently from everyone else was quite mortifying.  This feeling was magnified when I was older, out of home and only growing a few herbs of my own to use in cooking when a friend noticed them and jokingly (and slightly mockingly) told me I was going to turn out exactly like my parents.  I was outraged!!  There was no way I was going to be anything like my parents!  Right?  Right??

Flip to many years ahead, the global financial crisis, the growing cost of food and the big question marks over whether the things we eat which are covered with pesticides or highly processed or full of presevatives, additives, flavours and colours are really the best stuff to be putting in our bodies and giving to our families and I knew already which direction I would take. So I took it.  And then, suddenly, the things which my family had been doing for decades became the latest trend and everyone was on the homegrown, homecooked, homemade wagon.

I visited my friend (the one I mentioned earlier) not so long back and upon glancing out her back door noticed a big plastic container with some struggling, wilty herbs growing in dry, poor soil.
 "Hey!" I said "You're growing stuff!"
"Yeah," she replied "Herbs are just so expensive so I thought I'd try to grow my own.  But they arn't really doing much and I don't know why."
I knew why.  I knew exactly why.  And so I told her what to do.
"Thanks!" she said brightly.  "I'll try that out!"
And in that very moment the realisation came rushing home, striking me completely and fully out of the blue.  I was never, ever prouder than that precise moment, to be exactly like my parents.


Anyway, now you know a little about the background behind why I grow things, here's a small sample of what's happening in my garden right now.

I pulled up these little beauties this morning, they will be lovely with  barbequed morrocan chicken kebabs and couscous tonight. These guys can easily grow three or four times bigger than this but I didn't thin the crop out when I planted them and as they are starting to get quite crowded, the smaller ones needed some growing space, so up came these!  Besides, they are sooooo tender and flavoursome when they are babies!!

Some developing pea pods, climbing bean plants beginning their ascent and green truss tomatoes.   We have a resident possum who likes to sample the tomatoes once they begin to ripen.  I can't ever leave them for just one extra day because I will always come out the next morning to discover a big chunk out of the ripest side.  Naughty possum!  As a result I pick them the moment they begin to blush and they ripen beautifully on my kitchen bench.

Nasturtiums growing in amongst the vegetables.  Both petals (which I also have growing in red and yellow) and leaves can be used in salads and have a peppery taste.   My daughter loves the leaves of the plant in the top photo because "it looks just like someone painted them!"  Garden faries perhaps?  Shame they don't chase the possum away!

 Cos and mignonette lettuce varieties and the biggest english spinich leaves I've ever grown!

And lots and lots of silverbeet.

This is about the third crop of silverbeet I've had this winter.  I always used to hate it with a passion as a child, mostly because it would be served simply steamed...bleh!  I couldn't really imagine eating it that way even as a grown up.  My most favourite way now is in a pie with lots of cheese, perhaps not the least fattening way but then, I like to think that I've earnt it after all the hard work that goes into growing all my veges in the first place.  If you would like to try it out, here's the recipe.  I really can't take credit for it as although I've changed it slightly, it's pretty much right off the side of the fillo pastry box (thanks Pampas!) but of all the recipes I've tried, it's been the absolute best.  Yum!


20 Sheets Fillo pastry
1 large bunch Silverbeet with stalks, washed and finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
125g fetta cheese
125g ricotta cheese
60g parmesan cheese, grated
black pepper
olive oil spray
poppy or sesame seeds

1.  Cook the silverbeet by placing it in a  lidded saucepan on medium heat and stir occasionally.  Do not add water as the silverbeet will develop it's own water as it cooks.  Drain well (I like to put it in a large sieve and press it with a spoon to get out all the liquid).  Add onions, herbs, nutmeg, eggs, fetta, parmesan and pepper.  Mix well.

2.  Lightly oil a 26cm dia quiche dish and also spray first 10 sheets of fillo pastry lightly, arranging in dish to cover base and sides.

3.  Spoon the filling into the pastry.  Spray and layer the remaining pastry on top of the filling, folding the edges in to give a ruffled finish.  Sprinkle top with seeds of your choice.

4.  Bake in a preheated oven (170 deg fan forced/ 190 deg conventional) for forty minutes or until golden.

Here it is with my very own peas, corn and carrots (which have been coated with honey from a local grower).  I'm pretty proud to say that not only the silverbeet, but the spring onions, mint and parsley in the pie also came from my garden.  Oh and the eggs in the pie were free range, organic, jumbo sized ones from our local farmers markets.  We will have our own chickens one day,  but until then the farmers markets ones are brilliant and so much better (and cheaper!) than anything I could buy from the supermarket.  Also, for those of you who have an oven as dodgy as mine, you may want to cover the outer edge of the pie in aluminium foil for the first thirty minutes and uncover to brown in the last ten.  If I don't do this, the ruffled edge burns to a crisp!!