Friday, 3 October 2014

Garden Update

My first Brocollini.

Spring has finally sprung, and I am starting to feel like me again. I'm a lizard, and without warmth and sunshine I get very tired. This was even more apparent during the last few months when I was renovating, with a toddler roaming around the filthy, cramped house, (I will write about that soon, hopefully) and in the first trimester of pregnancy with D2. Needless to say I was exhausted, but now my house is no longer a construction site and I'm in love with my kitchen, I'm in the cruisy second trimester of pregnancy and the sun is out making my veggie garden grow-despite the months of neglect it had to tolerate whilst everything else was going on. I feel very lucky that it didn't all die, yet alone still being able to eat from it.

Lara and I are having fun harvesting delicious strawberries from the garden, and the other night I was very proud to make homemade kale chips from homegrown kale. Not all jobs can be done with Lara, particularly now that she's developed a taste for great soil, so I decided to wait until she slept to plant out some tomato lovely cow compost and chicken poo.

Sadly, my experiment for a lovely little tomato  recycled green house failed in the midst of renovating when we got a few huge downpours of rain. Turns out a few small gaps of glass are enough to let in a shite load of water. Thus my attempt to plant tomato seeds early in order to be planting out my own seedlings now failed.

Failed glass house-it only takes one small hole.

So yesterdays solution was to bite the bullet and accept some assistance from good old Flower Power. Yes, I bought some seedlings. With the plan to plant some seeds and hope they germinate in time to make the most of the spring and summer weather...we shall see when I get to that. I brought three different cherry tomato varieties since I've long given up trying to grown full size tomatoes. The bugs always get to them before they are ripe enough, and the cherry varieties are so much tastier anyway.

Sugar snap, Cherry Fountain and Tiny Tim.

The big surprise whilst I was taking stock of the veggie garden was spotting my very first brocollini. I planted a few seedlings months ago, but between the possums, bandicoots and rabbits only one survived, so to see it with something edible on it was a great surprise. But now I have to keep an eye on the white cabbage fly moth that is attacking its leaves, along with the kale and other leafy greens, there is always a job to do in the veggie garden, rewarding as it is. At this stage I'm hoping nature will sort it out, but I will reassess when I get back from my birthday long weekend retreat up Smith's Creek. Boy am I overdue for a few days of doing nothing (as much nothing as a toddler's mum can get away with), I'm really looking forward to soaking up the sun, reading, sleeping and eating, and of course having Mark on hand to share parental duties so I can enjoy a meal to lets see how much food prep I manage to do today before we depart.

Such a pleasant surprise.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

How to Celebrate a First Birthday

Lara's first birthday was a massive occasion that we celebrated with many family and friends for many days. Thankfully, after recovering from all that partying Lara and I were able to have a relaxing mother-daughter outing that involved two of our favourite things; animals and food...obviously the time since then hasn't been as relaxing as I'm only just writing about it now.

Mark and I knew that our little lady would be absolutely spoiled rotten with toys and clothes for her birthday, so we decided to get a Zoo Friends Membership as our present to her, since she is displaying an early love for animals. Not to mention that I love any excuse to go to the zoo, and it is a really good way to exercise without even realising it. So now we can drop in on our way to or from lunch outings, or plan to have a whole day week we are going to go and have morning tea with the new baby chimps.

Lara showed plenty of signs of absolutely loving her present as soon as we arrived at the zoo, pointing at the wild birds that roam the grounds and then spotting the first animal on exhibit; Nala the Tree Kangaroo. At first Nala was just chilling out, and I wondered if Lara would see her, but then all of a sudden this adorable animal looked straight at Lara who chirped and pointed in excitement as it appeared that the two of them acknowledged each other. And then this cheeky little animal put on a show, climbing along ropes and showing off her skills. Lara was very impressed.

Look Mum, Nala is putting on a show for us!

As we made our way towards the kids trail Lara spotted kangaroos, which she found surprisingly entertaining, and enough tourists with great accents for her to charm so they would talk to her....sometimes I worry that she would go home with anybody, she just seems to make friends where ever we go.

In the Backyard to Bush Kids Trail Lara was impressed when she saw a real sheep, they don't look that different to how they do in her books, and they feel rather different to her dogs. Then she saw, AND heard the pigs grunting away getting excited about their food, and she thought they were hilarious. Next she identified the chickens (even though they were fluffy little Bantums and look very different to our Australorps, so I was impressed), but one of the most exciting parts of our zoo visit must have been Lara meeting a children's Python. At first she was very cautious of it, rightly so, but then as she warmed up to it, and saw me patting it, she thought she would touch it, and the smile that came to her face during this interaction was priceless! It was almost like she knew she was being brave.

Lara meets a snake.

I don't know about this Mister.

This doesn't feel like Jet or Baxter.

After walking around for a little bit we decided to sit with the Elephants to have our afternoon tea treat. Our favourite; chocolate croissant, from the best place in Sydney La Renaissance. I don't think it will be long until I will have to buy two, because whilst Lara and I love sharing with each other, I think quietly we were both thinking "she got more than me". It is a serious case of like mother, like daughter when it comes to food with us two.

Lara and I hanging out with the Elephants...too distracted for a selfie!
As the day was getting on, and Lara was approaching her nap time, we headed up towards the Giraffes and Chimpanzees, but unfortunately the chimps weren't outside, so we are going back next week to see them. Hopefully we will be lucky with the weather again. So many adventures and learning opportunities lay ahead.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Seven short months

Lara and I in the garden this weekend.
"Why are you taking our photo Dad, this is standard?"

How life has changed over the last seven months, which have flown by in the blink of an eye. Lara has grown from a sleeping bundle of joy hanging out in the sling whilst I gardened, to sitting on my hip in the sling and reaching out for things to pick and eat. In the photo above I'm showing her how the beans grow and change colours. Not that she is all that interested, she just wants to eat them. The best thing about growing a veggie garden and keeping chickens is no longer watching those things grow and thrive, and then devouring them; but watching Lara's interest and enthusiasm, and her appreciation for a freshly picked bean or strawberry.

Seven short months ago.

Our first day at home and I already had Lara in the garden.
My little lady is now sitting up, crawling around and pulling herself up on things in a desperate attempt to walk. So many people comment that she has always wanted to be on her feet, but at the moment her determination to walk makes me so proud of her, and terrified at the same time. Lara continues to develop more and more character every day, playing with her dogs, watching her chickens, 'helping' me in the garden and today struggling to have her morning nap and calling out Mum and quietly waiting for me to respond....I didn't fall for it. The first time Lara said Mum was on the second of April whilst we were out sailing to Whitehaven beach, I just thought it was a coincidence, but she has been dropping the word every couple of days since, but only when she is trying to communicate with me. I didn't do anything to encourage her to say Mum, but now I'm working on Dad. Lara does attempt to say Boo and sticks her tongue out to lick Baxter first, so gross, but at least she will have a strong immune system. Her first tooth finally broke out of her gums on Saturday 19th April and whilst it is growing fast it doesn't have a partner in crime just yet.

It won't be long before we need to drop the level of Lara's cot to stop her from flipping herself out of it, and at this rate I'm scared that it won't be long before I'm walking her to school.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Happy birthday Dad.

Sake restaurant in The Rocks, Sydney has become a bit of a family favourite, so we were rather excited when we were invited to share Dad's 60th birthday with him there.

White soy snapper topped with sesame seeds, chives, yuzo juice and; white-soy dressing.

The evening was a feast for the eyes and the mouth. Somehow Dad and I have developed the same obsession with miso soup even though our initial Japanese dining experiences were not had together, but the last few times we went to Sake we both ordered the miso soup and wanted to drink the whole pot, so I was chuffed when I saw that it was on the menu. I need to invest some time in learning how to make a good miso, it is such a feel good, healthy drink.

The first course was sashimi white soy snapper and slipped down my throat. It was followed by wagyu new style and by the second dish I discovered that I have a liking for yuzo sauce, after thoroughly enjoying this new flavour in both courses.

Wagyu new style, lightly seared with hot oil and; finished with ginger, chives and; yuzo saucae.

The next dish of glacier 51 toothfish marinated in miso and served in a crispy lettuce leaf was delightful, sadly there was only one cup per person....since we were with company I was on my best behaviour and didn't fight Mark for his, but the thought did cross my mind.

Glacier 51 toothfish was marinated in miso.
Most of us were really looking forward to the prawn dumplings, and when they burst in my mouth my feet did a little dance in excitement. They certainly lived up to the anticipation.

Chinese inspired steamed prawn dumplings (shumai) with spicy ponzu. .
The next dish of pan seared barramundi smelt so good that Lara woke up as it entered the room, no way was she going to miss out on trying it. She devoured this dish, and I think she had more than her fair share-no one else would be able to steal that much food off my plate and get away with it. Sepia needs to take a note from the Sake kitchen on how you are meant to use buckwheat as this dish was a perfect execution of light complex flavours with just the right amount of textures on the plate. Japanese chefs always excel at this, which is probably why it is Mark's and my favourite cuisine. We dream of the day when we get to take our kids to Japan.

Pan seared ocean barramundi finished with butter soy on sweet ponzu buckwheat & tomato salsa.
Lara was a fan of the barramundi.
A Japanese meal is not complete without tempura which is always a treat. The batter was light and crispy and the dipping sauce was so delicious that I think I probably triple dipped.

Scampi tempura with sweet ponzu, coriander and; jalapeno slices.

The chef's selection of nigiri was delightful. Naturally the wasabi was real and had the associated complex flavours that can't be matched by packet stuff. The ginger was perfectly light and fresh and the scallop was seared slightly just to caramelise it. I will definitely be ordering this when we go back.

Chef's selection of nigiri.
Of course, this was Dad's birthday celebration, so there had to be cake, and there is no better cake than a Messina gelato cake. They have well and truly earned their reputation. Luckily Lara had gone back to sleep by the time we were having dessert, because I doubt I would have been very willing to let her share as much of my cake as she would have liked.

Messina gelato cake
Now we wait for an excuse to do it all again.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Paleo Biscuits

Almonds, desicated coconut, honey and coconut oil.

A friend sent me the link to this recipe just before ANZAC day-I guess my attempts at Paleo have been noted, that said I admit that I follow the Paleo lifestyle EXTREMELY loosely these days, regardless of all my good intentions. Sadly I have never had much willpower when I'm sleep deprived, this isn't an excuse, I've just accepted it because I'm so good at giving myself sh!t.

This recipe was appealing as I seriously wanted to bake biscuits for Anzac day as I have done for years, but I'm in the process of trying to work out if it is sugar or grains that my body is having some serious issues with these days....I'm hoping it is only one of them and not both, if given a choice I would ditch sugar because I really want to bake bread and make some fresh pasta. Anyway, I digress, this recipe was also good because I had all the ingredients in the pantry-or could make do.

What were my thoughts on the recipe and how this biscuit turned out? Well the recipe was well written and seemed promising, thus I attempted it. However, to call them Anzac biscuits, even with the word Paleo in front of them should be considered a crime. Admittedly I just blitzed some almonds because I didn't have almond flakes in the pantry so the texture turned out nothing like an Anzac biscuit, or how the biscuits looked in the official photo, but they also tasted nothing like an Anzac biscuit. I think the simple remedy to this would probably be to double the quantity of honey (and maybe reduce the coconut oil), which I may do if I make them again, as a healthy option for a digestive biscuit to enjoy with my hot cacao (which I'm seriously loving at the moment), not as a falsely marketed Anzac biscuit. Whats in a name?

The most ugly things I've baked in a long time.