Welcome to My Kitchen

My personal blog and an account of my adventures in the kitchen. I am a stay at home mum of my two youngest kids, both teenagers. I have four adult children and four grandchildren with one on the way. We live in country NSW, Australia and we love our country life.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Summer Holidays Come to an End and Bread and Butter Cucumbers

 We have a lot of cucumbers, which isn't as difficult as the zucchini glut as we love to eat cucumbers as is, on sandwiches and in salads.  I also decided to pickle some into "bread and butter" cucumbers which are great on sandwiches, and burgers.  I just slice up 3 or 4 cucumbers and layer them in a dish, sprinkling salt over each layer.  Cover and put in the fridge overnight.  Then drain them and rinse them well and leave to drain some more.

Put 1 1/2 cups white vinegar, 3/4 cup of sugar and a cup of water into a saucepan.  Add 2 tsp of mustard seeds or pickling spice.  Put on the heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then simmer uncovered for about five minutes.  Add cucumber slices, bring to the boil then remove from heat and pack into sterilised jars.  I just run jars through the dishwasher to sterilise them.  They will keep in the fridge for a while, if they last that long.  I made a batch last week and today I am making a second lot.
I have had to put word verification on the comment process here, I know nobody likes it but I am getting ridiculous anonymous spam comments, several a day.
Emily has decided to go back to school and try to do years 11 and 12 again.  I am cautiously optimistic but feel she has grown up a lot in the past few years and now she is on the medication she is much better and ready to prepare for her future again.  Josh has decided to repeat year 11, which I am not opposed to, as he didn't do as well as he could have last year, and a lot of that was probably due to me being unwell and not giving him the stability and support he needed.  I really don't believe he would have been mature enough for university next year either.  Josh's friend Peter, who he's known since primary school is also repeating.  He got a job late last year and had decided to leave school but hated the job.  He had missed a lot of assignments due to working and figured he'd make the choice to repeat before the school made it for him.  We are going to the school tomorrow to see what they think of all this.  This Em's second attempt to start year 11, I just hope it works out for her this time.
I have volunteered to work at the soup kitchen this year, it's a wonderful service provided at one of the churches here, everyone is welcome, not just the poor and the lonely and I will be proud to be a part of it.
These are the pickles I made today, I used white wine vinegar this time and pickling spice (last batch I used mustard seeds).  They smelled more like the commercially made ones due to the dill seeds in the spice mix.  And we cut them a bit thicker this time as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Make Your Own Stock - It's Easier Than you Think!

I find it really satisfying to make my own stock, for soups in the Winter, but also for casseroles, gravies, risotto and any other recipe that requires stock.  I know that using home made chicken stock made all the difference to my Mexican rice.  I bought a bag of beef bones and a chicken frame from the local supermarkets.
For the beef, I cut up onions, celery carrots and bunged in some zucchini for good measure (we have LOTS of zucchini)and put it into a baking dish .  Topped it with the beef bones and drizzled with olive oil then roasted in the oven at about 180C (fan forced) for a couple of hours, watching carefully to make sure it didn't char too much, turning the bones over once or twice.  Then I took it all out and put it into a pot, before adding a little water to the baking dish and deglazing, tipping that into the pot as well.  I added some thyme, parsley, bay leaves and pepper corns and simmered for hours.  Three will do it, and I topped it up with more water as it simmered.

 For the chicken stock I just put the chicken frame into a pot with onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, parsley, thyme and peppercorns and simmered as with the beef.  Once it was done I strained the liquid into bowls and refrigerated overnight to let the fat settle.  The beef had hardly any fat, but the chicken forms a nice layer on top that is easy to skim off.  Then I packaged it into containers in varying amounts and labelled and into the freezer they went. 

I added only a little salt.  Commercially prepared stocks have way too much sodium content and God only knows what else.  Making your own guarantees that you know exactly what you are eating and tastes so much better.  I just thaw it out in the microwave when I need to use it.  The beef bones cost me about six dollars, the chicken frame about $3.50 and everything else I had in the house or the garden.  I got about 3 litres of stock from each.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mexican Rice and Chicken

I was in the mood for a little experimenting in the kitchen, it was just the kids and me last night so it had to be something feral friendly.  I decided not to go out at all, it was a rainy day and good for just staying in and pottering.  Also as the morning got later I realised I wouldn't have been home in time for my date with a cowboy in the afternoon.  So dinner needed to be made from what I had in the house.  I had some chicken thigh fillets in the fridge waiting to be frozen so I cut some of those up and put them in a bowl with some Greek yoghurt, two chipotle peppers chopped up, seeds and all, some lime juice, grated garlic and some finely chopped coriander.  Left it to marinate for an hour or so.

Wasn't sure what to serve with it, the kids aren't big potato fans so I got the idea to try my hand at a Mexican style rice dish.

I cut up one of the eschallots from the garden and grated some garlic then sauteed them in butter.  I rinsed about a cup and a half, maybe a bit more, of basmati rice and drained it well then left to dry a bit before adding to the onion and garlic and stir fried it till it was darkening in colour, probably about ten minutes.  While it was cooking I sprinkled over about two teaspoons of cumin, and 1/2 a teaspoon of chilli powder.  I chopped up a green chilli, one of the last ones in the freezer from last Summer, and cut the kernels off a corn cob (also from the garden), chopped up some capsicum (yep grew that too) then added a tin of crushed tomatoes and 500ml of home made chicken stock, also my last out of the freezer from last Winter's soup extravaganza.  I let it simmer uncovered for a while, then covered the pot and turned the heat down low while the liquid was absorbed into the rice.

Once it was cooked I fluffed it up with a fork, added the juice of half a lime and some torn coriander on top.  It was delicious, even the kids loved it.  Emily went back for seconds.

For the chicken, I heated up my grill pan till it was quite hot then whacked the fillets on it and charred them on either side, turning a couple of times.  They weren't quite cooked though so next time I will finish them off in the oven.  The flavour was good, but when I do them again I will add more chipotle and more lime and garlic.

I made a little salad with baby spinach, rocket, tomato, cucumber (home grown!), olives, red onion and corn and dressed it with lemon juice mixed with evoo and a little chilli powder.
I can't wait till my spices get here so I can do some more experimenting with flavours and ingredients.

It's another rainy day here, so I will have to dry the washing inside, but I really have to go out today.  Tonight it's just the kids and I again and I have a big packet of beef mince so I'm going to cook and puree some broccoli and cauliflower to mix into the beef along with grated carrot and zucchini (we have a LOT of zucchini), some lemon myrtle, ketchup, a beaten egg, garlic and lots of black pepper and make a batch of burgers to have tonight and to freeze for easy quick dinners.  I have a nifty little Tupperware hamburger press which makes them all uniform and neat.  I will make hamburger buns using the bread maker.  It's also how I make my pizza dough, it does all the work and I just have to remove the dough and for pizza just roll it and toss it, and with the buns, form into rolls, put on a baking paper lined tray let them rise before brushing with milk and sprinkling with sesame seeds and baking.  I will post the pizza dough recipe, it's very easy and very simple.

The mental health people came knocking yesterday checking up on Emily, but she was asleep (of course) and I told them she is greatly improved since beginning the medication.  One of them, a very experienced nurse asked if her thyroid had ever been checked and I said I was pretty sure it hadn't and asked them if that could cause behaviour problems and they both said "Yes!" in unison.  The nurse said her eyes looked a bit bulgy and her skin dry the day they spoke to her after the incident.  Nobody has ever suggested this before and it had never occurred to me either.  So it's off to the GP next week for more blood tests.  We have had behaviour problems with Em since she was little, which got worse as she headed into her teens.  But she is truly a wonderful girl when she is well, she is smart, kind, loving and screamingly funny.  She is my biggest supporter and I don't know what I would do without her.  It's just so sad that she has these other issues that are hindering her.

The medication she is on, and that I am also taking now, has made a huge difference to us both.  I am going to do a post on mental health and the stigma and difficulties that come with having a mental illness.  But that is for another day.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chipotle Heaven

The pizza turned out really well, we shared one, but it was a bit too big for the pizza maker and next time we will make two smaller ones.

 On the right is the fresh dough rising, the smaller one is the ball that I froze from last time.  I don't think it freezes very well at all.  The sauce was so easy and tasted better than my usual one, and no cooking, reducing and pureeing.  It was just a tin of crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, dried oregano, chilli flakes and garlic infused extra virgin olive oil.
 I roasted half a butternut pumpkin with some garlic.

I took the meat out of two Italian sausages and fried it.  They were so lean, rendering hardly any fat at all.
It wasn't pretty but it tasted so good.  I fried some sage leaves in butter till they were crispy and they were the perfect finishing touch.  See how the crust didn't brown?  It was just too big for the pizza stone.  It was brown and crispy on the bottom though.

I have seen so many recipes that call for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce but could never find them here.  I was so excited when I was in Perth in September to find some in the food hall in David Jones.  I only bought one can as I was worried about my luggage weight on the plane and had already bought a heap of other things to take home.  After I opened the can I froze the individual chillies in an ice tray and kept them in the freezer.  The first thing I used them for was our favourite pulled beef for tacos and quesadillas.  I fell in love with the smoky, hot flavour it gave to the meat.  So I went on a quest to find out where I could get more and found a Mexican food warehouse in Sydney who sells them and ordered four cans.  They are a different brand to the ones I got in Perth so I hope they're as good.  I have a lot of recipes I want to try.  I also ordered some ancho chilli powder, some chipotle powder and some pasilla powder, which is a chocolately chilli powder.  So I will be having some Mexican fun in the next few weeks.
Phill is at work till Sunday and the kids stayed up all night (again) so I am on my own today.  I think I will drive up to Wombat and get some eggs from the farm.  Then on to Young for some shopping. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pizza Night!

Ordering pizza was my "night off" from cooking, we used to do it at least once a fortnight.  But our regular pizza place got really expensive, and when the new owners took over, the pizzas weren't as good.  We tried another place which were great but then they got taken over by the Greek cafe and the last time we ordered a Napolitana (olives, mushrooms and anchovies) it arrived with two kinds of capsicum, which wasn't so bad, but also chicken!  I hate chicken on a pizza and we picked it off vowing it was the end of our pizza ordering.

We have a pizza oven and often make our own, I make my own dough in the bread maker and I like to make my own sauce, trying to add some vegetable matter for my vegie phobic kids.  They like pepperoni, the boy will have some mushrooms, and they will both have olives and anchovies.  I have discovered however, that pumpkin is delicious on a pizza.  So tonight I will make a different version of sauce inspired by this blog and roast the pumpkin in the oven with a head of garlic and perhaps some zucchini from the garden with a little olive oil.  I will put some fresh sage underneath the cheese, and then top with the vegies, and more sage leaves sauteed in a little butter and some cooked crumbled Italian sausage.

We harvested all of our corn and have it cut into cobettes in the freezer.  I can eat it fresh off the plant, usually standing in the vegie patch!  I'm going to try my hand at making creamed corn, and some Chinese chicken and corn soup.

The tomatoes are slow this year as are the chillis, last year we had to freeze, pickle and give away our chillis.  I am loving having fresh herbs, curly and flat leaf parsley, our abundant sage that comes back year after year in a big concrete pot by the back door, common and lemon thyme, rosemary, chives, oregano, basil and Thai basil, which is my favourite right now, I am putting it into everything.  The coriander bolted, we have never had much luck with that except when we had in the old double laundry tubs under the grape vine pergola in Junee.  The little lemon balm plant I bought is flourishing in a tub also and I have been using that in salads.

So it feels good to be back home on Blogger.  I have missed blogging and now I can combine that with another favourite thing, cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.