Thursday, June 26, 2014

Convenience food

There was once a time; when I didn't feel like cooking and we'd order a pizza. We didn't do it very often, but it was still the quickest form of convenience food I could think of. Now however, I have a new way to use an old piece of equipment to whip-up a quick meal. How old is that piece of equipment? Try as old as our marriage - it was a wedding present, over eleven years ago.

One pot to feed them all!

It's our very simple and cheap rice cooker. You basically follow the instructions of how to cook the rice (refer to manual) and then I just add my own leftovers of meat and vegetables. It can all cook within the hour, and takes under 5 minutes to throw in the pot.

Mix 'n match leftovers

We used our leftover roast the night before, in this particular meal. I also sliced half a leek to add and a handful of frozen beans. The jelly and fat leftover from the honey-mustard chicken went in there too.

Purchased from Aldi

Instead of run-of-the-mill white rice, I used a very yummy rice and grain blend which is gluten free. Throw it all together, flick a switch and dinner is cooking while I get on with other stuff. This tastes much better than pizza and uses leftovers in a way that tastes new and delicious. To save money on electricity, I even switch it off ten-minutes before its meant to be finished, and let it sit until the moisture is absorbed.

I'm glad I decided to try experimenting with our rice cooker, because I use it more often now. This is one wedding present that just kept on giving - apart from my wonderful husband, that is. ;)

Have you found a different use for your specialized kitchen equipment?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


The internet has been cut from our lives for three days recently. It's a long story, but basically it turned out to be a fried modem and too much money spent on getting the diagnosis. Our curious son also managed to dunk another wireless device into the cat's water, which was our second form of internet access. The wonder which is Murphy's Law, had a rollicking good time at our place recently.

It took some getting used to being internet free but now we have it back, I haven't been using it as much. Neither has David. I didn't think we were addicted to using the internet, but given the initial withdrawal symptoms and then relishing the time we spent together without internet in our lives, I guess we were addicted.

In our downtime recently, David got to finish cutting-up some branches and relocating them out of  the way....

Acacia branches

....and I got to re-organise my pots around the verandah again, giving some poor plants much needed morning sunlight. It should make this philodendron a little happier.

Philodendron 'imperial green'

I even got to plant some more vegetables in our small garden beds, which was something I really enjoyed. I'm imagining fresh cauliflower and french beans, along with the wom bok which went in a few weeks earlier.

French dwarf bean

We even got to contemplate building some wicking beds, which we have been entertaining for years. Given that we're removing a precious shade tree, we thought about how we can turn some wicking beds into some extended shade for the area too.

I'm getting around to catching up with all the regular blogs I read, but at a pace which is less net-centric. How do you think your life is effected by how much you use the internet?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gluten Free Pancakes

Can a pancake really taste just like an apple turnover pastry? In my world of experimenting with Gluten Free baking, I've found a wonderful combination which does it's best to try. It was a serendipitous accident frankly, as I was looking for a gluten free donut recipe.

The one I found, worked brilliantly, but it was rather too fiddly for the few donuts baked. I thought eighteen would be plenty, but I underestimated how far they'd go for four people! It's a brilliant tasting donut recipe though, I just wanted a simpler way to use it. I also didn't want to use some of the ingredients. I'll put the pancake recipe down below, but first, the apple turnover bit!

Cook your pancakes as you would normally on a hot skillet. We like to use them when they're freshly cooked and slightly warm, but there are plenty left over to stick in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or oven, the next day.

Next, put some cooked and chilled diced apple down. Spread it around. I haven't used too much because of how I'm going to roll the pancake at the end. You can make your own apple filling or buy it in a can, but be sure to add a little sugar and cinnamon for sweetening and flavour. Don't go overboard with the cinnamon though.

Whip some cream and add a dollop to the pancake. Again, don't use too much or it will come out the pancake when rolled. When whipping the cream I add a little icing sugar, which I make from processing white sugar. Most store bought icing "mixtures" contain gluten fillers, so steer clear of them.

Spread the cream around the pancake, then you want to sprinkle it with some cinnamon sugar. This is what gives the texture of the pancake, that subtle pastry crunch of an apple turnover. You just need a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar from a dispenser.

I make my own cinnamon sugar from quality ground cinnamon. Most supermarket cinnamon doesn't even come from the cinnamon plant, but a cheaper substitute plant. I sourced my cinnamon from a bulk supplier of natural ground cinnamon and I can't go back to the supermarket stuff. It's lasted me years and still smells like real cinnamon.

I reuse an old spice jar with a dispenser lid, by combining white sugar and ground cinnamon, then shaking together.

The last step to complete, is simply rolling the pancake up. When eaten, it will taste ever so much like an apple turnover. If you want more filling, don't roll the pancake and just layer the apple, cream and cinnamon sugar on top of the flat pancake. Eat it with a knife and fork. I ate it both ways, and they both tasted incredible. I liked the flat way best, but by rolling the pancakes it made the fillings go further and is probably better for the waistline!

This is a once in a while treat, when we've been working hard in the yard.

Time for the pancake recipe. Bear in mind to use your own judgement with quantities. I've used a rough approximate for the list of ingredients, but you'll need to add what liquid to flour ratio, gives the correct consistency for pancake batter. I like my consistency easy to pour, but not water thin. I like to be able to pour it on the skillet, but use the back of a spoon to push the circle out a little further.

2 eggs
1-2 cups apple juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup to 1 cup gluten free flour
pinch of xantham gum if not already in the flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
pinch ground cinnamon
splash of vanilla essence

Mix all together in a one litre pouring jug. I use a stick blender with blending attachment, because its better at mixing in a jug without spilling over the sides. Cook on the skillet until golden brown on both sides. Stack on a plate with a cover, until all the pancake batter is cooked.

If you don't want to use the xantham gum, I recommend adding extra eggs...1 or 2 depending what size the eggs are.

The bicarbonate soda and apple cider vinegar, make the pancake batter lighter and aerated as they react to one another. Try your own experimentation with fillings, with whatever you have around.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Enter this way

I got this post idea from LindaM at Zone Zero who was brave enough to share an honest picture of the main entrance to their house. We've all had that kind of dilemma where the door to outside, becomes a collection point for everything we may need to use out there. I actually have several doors like that!

But the main doorway at the front of the house, was becoming a problem. I don't have photographs of what it used to look like, but I have pictures for today. Here is the first thing you see as you enter the front door.

This was given to me by my mum, when she was going through her stuff to downsize. It's not in the best condition (scratches, chips, etc) but it meets the need perfectly. It's a skinny piece of furniture, originally intended for a hallway, but it's used instead between two doorways (on either side) to the rest of the house.

It provides a place to leave some of our shoes so they won't clog up the entry, but its main purpose is for storage. All those little drawers are filled with stuff - some we use regularly, others not so much.

The main drawer holds some car keys, the pruners, watches, boot polishing brushes, and other assorted brick-a-brac. Generally speaking, small things which are used a lot, go in the main drawer. Once its closed, the bunched together mess is gone.

The smaller drawers are handy too. It's great to just pop my gardening gloves in here. They're close to outside and not left to sit on bench tops. My gardening gloves are one of those things I don't like to leave outside, in case any critters decide it would be a nice place to explore. Underneath the gloves though, are a bunch of miscellaneous items I keep - you  know, leftover pieces from furniture you've put together, that lonely hair clip your daughter lost the partner to - odds and sods which may come in handy one day.

The shoes though...oh, the shoes!!

My husband is quite the shoe hoarder. There is only one pair of Sarah's shoes on these shelves, and the rest are David's. Its a very simple system though - all his shoes are in one place and within convenient access to the front door. The only thing we haven't got is a bench-seat to sit on, but David makes do with a coffee table in the next room to put his shoes on.

This used to be the bane of my front door existence though. A mountain of shoes would build up so high, they would inevitably spill into the doorway. Thank you mum, for the free shoe shelves! They are so organised now and a great use of vertical space.

You can also see in the above picture, this is where we park the baby pram. It's an extra wide doorway, so we can park the pram there and still use the door to the lounge room.

I made sure to leave a little space between the shelves and wall, to put the umbrella and walking sticks. The walking sticks are just straight branches which have been collected in the yard. They're used very rarely, but occasionally outside.

What really helped with messy areas in the rest of the house however, was this simple gift I received on Christmas Day, from Dave.

It's a hat and coat rack - finally freeing the backs of our dining chairs, and the arms of lounge chairs to use as proper seats instead. David used to hunt around for where he left his coat, now its just a simple matter of hanging it in the one place. I had the same thing with Sarah's blue school jacket. We'd have to hunt for where she put it - the couch, the bathroom floor, her bedroom chair. Now it just lives on the coat rack until school holidays, and I hang it back up in her wardrobe.

We fit quite a bit in this very small entry space, and the doorway is almost always left clear now. I say almost, as a certain little person has decided he likes to clear the shoe shelves on a regular basis.

If you have a problem area in your house (or used to be) please write about it on your blog and leave a comment. I'd like to see how it was addressed, or will be, because there are so many different ways to organise our stuff. Cheap, ingenious ideas are always welcome.