in my kitchen

from my #witchskitchen . . .

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I’m preparing to launch @daleleelife101 -and myself- as a stallholder into the world of local markets. A long-term patron of local markets… and not so local… we visited our fair share of markets when we travelled around Australia in 2016… for years I have bored the G.O. witless with my to-ing and fro-ing on the possibility of realising my dream of having my own stall. On the one hand there is -I believe- too much gratuitous consumer stuff being thrust at us these days. On the other hand, I derive great satisfaction from creating simple inexpensive household and personal products. Finally it came down to monkey see monkey do: I hope to inspire others ​with my manifesto… ​#LiveSimpleHomeMadeGrownLocalCreativeBetter​.​

#inmykitchen … despite being a fan of recycling, I detest cleaning jars… fortunately I find filling them with a witch’s kitchen of contents irresistible…

​​As soon as we tree-changed from city to country three and a half years ago I began working on our mission statement to… “follow our dream of living simply and creatively” ​by making as many food, household and personal items as my time and talents allow… simple seasonal condiments and preserves, flavoured salts, dried herbs, tea, cleaning products, deodorant, fragrance… some of which as well as plants and seeds will translate to a market stall, and hopefully -time and talent allowing- I’ll be inspired to try my hand at some new creative projects.

After realising another dream -studying Horticulture at Tafe NSW which involved me driving 160 km roundtrip to and from Coffs Harbour twice a week for two and a half years during semester time- I’ve turned my focus to home, studying Certificate IV Permaculture via Tafe NSW Digital… a commitment of additional course hours but no commute, hopefully scope for further creativity.

#inmygarden … I now have my own shed

A multitude of ideas and options crisscross my mind but I keep returning to the intention… keep it real. Other than investing in a small selection of beautiful and reusable amber glass bottles all other bottles and jars are recycled as well as reusable, keeping plastic as much as possible to a minimum.

After I complete a Food Safety Supervision training course in early August, my plan is to begin with the next local Taylors Arm markets, held our lovely old village hall. I’ve persuaded -I hope- a couple of neighbours -a baker and a maker- and maybe the G.O. to have a go as well. Part of the motivation that finally prompted me to act is my wish for a successful & regular village market. More stallholders are needed… be the change you want to see in your community.

“Don’t underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.” Leroy Hood

Taylors Arm village markets in the old hall

“Village life gently swirled around them, with the perpetual ebb and flow of people, scurrying in every direction. The village was a living, organic entity, with blood flowing through its veins, and with a definite pulse and heartbeat. It had its own distinct personality and its own dark caustic humour, and was constantly processing and regurgitating information through its winding, meandering streets.” Leonardo Donofrio, Old Country

In My Kitchen: I want what I want not what you’ve got. It’s my money.

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Our planet is a mess. Our world is a mess. Our economies are a mess. Our politics are a mess. Our food culture is a mess. Too often I feel just one person -me- can’t do enough about saving the planet, changing the world, fixing the economy or persuading politicians… other than making my vote count at the next election by choosing as best I can from the options available.

Choosing as best I can from the options available is how I decide what to eat. And just maybe it will create positive change for the planet, world, economy and even politics.

What I choose to eat depends on my circumstances, time, budget, location, preferences… and principles. Food matters to me. I need to eat. What do I eat? Where do I spend my money? I was trying to care about good food without much information to guide me, relying on what the supermarkets sold me, and the right choices never seemed to come easily.

I’ve always played music in my kitchen -for me, it goes hand in hand with cooking. One day I was playing The John Butler Trio album Three, and a line from lyrics of the song Money stuck in my head… “So tell me man can you eat your money…” It clarified the confusion I had been feeling. So many places I was paying money to for food didn’t care about the food the way I did. It was just a Thneed they wanted to sell me to get my money.

Can you eat your money?
Can you eat your money?

I prefer to hand over cash in exchange for food to people I’m familiar and can have a conversation with; this from going to farmers markets when we were living in the city and learning about food direct from producers who travelled from the country. Now living in the country I’m exploring our new food neighbourhood and continuing have conversations… some are easier than others.

I asked, and learned from Dangerous Dan’s butcher they don’t stock feedlot meat. Their product labelling and conversational butcher told me their beef is grass-fed, pastured from the Manning Valley (200 kilometres). He said the lamb is from western NSW and the pigs are from local small holdings. But their chickens are Red Lea, have Free Range Accreditation but are not pasture reared. They don’t stock beef cheeks because they have to buy 20 kilogram lots. Macksville Quality Meats stock the local Burrawong Gaian chickens I buy which are pasture reared. Conversations with these guys are more prosaic. Their beef comes from Wingham (200 kilometres), and the story’s the same for lamb, pork and beef cheeks.*

We like to buy meat from our local Pub with No Beer, whose beef & pork is locally pasture reared (by the G.O.’s cousin who I can chat to and order beef cheeks from) and Kinloch Quality Meats at nearby Scotts Head butcher who grow their beef and pigs just up the road from us. We’re fans of Eungai Creek Buffalo who I first met many years ago at Eveleigh-Carriageworks Farmers Market when they had a farm west of Sydney. They moved to the Nambucca Valley, and now have a café on their farm adjacent to buffalo in the paddocks as well as a product range of meat, cheese, yoghurt and icecream.

Feeding my man local pasture raised meat from The Pub With No Beer & Eungai Creek Buffalo
“Feed the man meat” Local & pasture raised (in cryovac packaging) from The Pub With No Beer & Eungai Creek Buffalo

I simplify my choices and exercise my principles by shopping local, choosing independents over big supermarket chains. The nearby Macksville Foodworks Co-op supermarket meets most of my needs for basic grocery items and importantly stocks a reasonable selection of local products as does the other local independent, Richies IGA at Nambucca Heads.

Supermarket milk wars have recently shone a much-needed spotlight on Australian’s consumer choices for dairy products. Both these independent supermarkets stock my preferred local Norco (i.e. “North Coast” 100% Farmer Owned Co-Op) and Devondale (The Aussie Farmer Co-Op) dairy products as well as other small producers’. Foodworks hadn’t been stocking the G.O.’s favourite Norco spreadable butter, so I asked them if they could. A  few weeks later, it appeared on the shelf.

Recently at Woolworths Nambucca Heads searching for Australian company Republica’s organic fair trade coffee -our compromise on price, taste, ethics & availability- I noted local brands on the shelves were slim pickings… no local Norco dairy products. There were Nowra (650 kilometres) cheeses, prominently labelled local. I bought one… Hello, my name is Dale, I’m a cheese addict!

Close to home... local dairy products and home made yoghurt
Local dairy products & homemade yoghurt “Sweet dreams are made of cheese. Who am I to diss a brie… or a camembert”

Eggs were the first food choices I made from an ethical standpoint. Oh, the joy and satisfaction when I get my hands on good eggs from friends, neighbours, friends & family of neighbours, the Pub with No Beer, farmers markets and if necessary the supermarket… I advocate consumer free ranging to find good eggs preferably from pasture ranging chickens. Pastured chooks, being natural creatures don’t lay all the time, so the more sources the better. I’ve been a fan for a while of Flavour Crusader which lists directories for local, free range and organic produce – eggs as well as milk, pork, garlic, chicken, fruit and vegetables, and was excited to discover the newly launched CluckAR – The Free Range Egg Detector App with which “you can simply point your smartphone camera at a carton in the supermarket, and get a clear picture of which brands are selling eggs from the most chilled-out, happy hens”.

"You can't make an omelette with breaking a few eggs"
Local, pasture raised, organic and free range “You can’t make an omelette with breaking a few eggs”

Some food conversations are really awkward…. Mrs Well-Meaning Neighbour asked me if we liked corned beef (silverside). Sensing more to the question, I replied “yeeeesss” cautiously. She went on… would we like a frozen corned beef courtesy of their prodigious meat raffle wins? Knowing the raffle meat source was the local supermarket, I politely declined explaining we don’t buy or eat supermarket meat as it doesn’t agree with us. Several hours later the G.O. showed up at the back door, his face wearing a hunted expression and clutching a large frozen corned beef with which Mrs Neighbour had presented him at the gate. Upon seeing this I announced “we’re taking it back”. His expression became more woeful, so I agreed to look into its provenance. I Googled the name on the packaging, Thomas Farms… “innovative and value added-meat products” part of Thomas Foods, “Australia’s largest 100% family owned… third largest meat processor” and found several interesting articles which swayed the G.O. who said “we’ll take it back”. And we did, once again politely explaining we don’t buy or eat supermarket meat as it doesn’t agree with us and this product was likely via a feedlot i.e. AFO/CAFO (Concentrated/Animal Farming Operation). To which Mrs Neighbour responded “we don’t know anything about that, but my daughter will be happy to have it”. The experience left the G.O. and I feeling need-a-glass-of-wine-to-recover stressed. But a few days later, Mrs Neighbour triumphantly reported the corned beef had been well-received.

I care about my food and my money. Food shopping involves far more considering of choices and circumstance, time, budget, location, preferences than I believe it should but it’s my money and principles which give me power to influence food culture. When I can’t find what suits me I walk away without buying anything, often remarking

“I want what I want not what you’ve got. It’s my money”.

Thanks to Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen, and the blogging community for the inspiration & virtual company they provide.

* Correct at time of publishing.

In My Kitchen: fellowship

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Once again I wasn’t sure if I’d manage it but once again I’ve scraped in before the 10th of the month IMK cut-off which makes me very happy because via this post I wanted to highlight the loveliness & friendship of our blogging community, and thank some special people.

First, thank you all for your generosity popping in and commenting even though while the G.O. and I are becoming accustomed to our new everyday my blogging presence has been sporadic.

Since my last IMK post in January, we were fortunate during February-March to take a trip to Victoria during which we met up with several blogger-friends. If you are ever going to be in a blog-buddy’s neighbourhood, all I can say is, the experience of sitting with, chatting and extending the connection is gratifying.

Fortuitously Francesca & Meeks live near my sister so we were able to catch up with them on their home turfs. Not just putting faces to names but places.  A few days later Kate, Ardys & I shared a lovely lunch in Melbourne CBD with Celi of thekitchensgarden and her cousin Maria. Before the G.O & I continued on our travels, along with Kate we met up with the delightful and talented Anne Lawson.

Francesca knows me well...
Francesca knows me well…

The Victoria locals shared some wonderful and useful travel tips which added highlights to our trip we’d have missed otherwise. And beautiful & thoughtful gifts left us with tangible mementos of our meetings to take home.

An Anne Lawson ink feather... waiting for its blue mate via Anne's Etsy store
An Anne Lawson ink feather… waiting for its blue mate via Anne’s Etsy store

Travelling with us to Victoria in our caravan fridge was a jar of my sourdough starter Polly, daughter of Celia’s Priscilla. Revived in my sister’s kitchen she was cloned as Holly. And has gone on to be very successful via my sister’s bread baking efforts.

My sourdough starter Polly daughter of Celia's Priscilla now has a sister, Holly...
My sourdough starter Polly daughter of Celia’s Priscilla now has a sister, Holly…

Upon our arrival home I was greeted by another beautiful & thoughtful housewarming gift sent from the UK by Mary, who although living far away feels very close.

A literary and floral gift from Mary... synchronicity at work, it resembles other items in my kitchen and my reading tastes...
A literary and floral gift from Mary… synchronicity at work, it resembles other items in my kitchen…

When I started blogging four years ago, it was to keep a bit of sanity in my life. The G.O. and I were living in a tiny city apartment and working hard towards making our dreams of a life in the country come true. At the time I had no idea the impact the interaction of the blog world would have. Connecting me with interesting & likeminded people worldwide it has fleshed out our dreams via their inspiration and companionship, distance notwithstanding. I’m truly grateful.

Thanks to Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen, and the blogging community for the inspiration & virtual company they provide. Special thanks to Francesca, Anne & Mary for the lovely cards & housewarming gifts.

The G.O. digging in to Francesca's delicious homemade cucumber pickles
The G.O. digging in to Francesca’s delicious homemade cucumber pickles

In My Kitchen: living it

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A month and a day has passed since my previous IMK post; the boxes have been packed, shifted to Taylors Arm, stacked in the shed, sorted, unpacked into the house, some re-packed & re-stacked in the shed for another day.

Four years ago we shifted between similar city apartments but last month’s packing up and moving to our holiday-furnished house in the Nambucca Valley was quite a different experience, one we hadn’t fully considered the extent of. We had pre-shifted and cleared furniture in the house to make room for our city apartment furniture but hadn’t given enough thought to the contents of cupboards and drawers. On day 2 after making less progress than I’d hoped and realising I was simply moving things from one place to another, creating piles & avalanches, resorting to crying while doing so, I emptied out into the shed what we weren’t immediately using and unpacked only what we would.

While I was doing this, the G.O. -whose heretofore hidden talents courtesy of a stint packing up deceased estates for a second-hand dealer wrapping crockery also were a marvel- was working his handyman magic on the kitchen boxes, installing components to make the kitchen everyday functional. Despite his progress being impeded by missing or questionable quality bits n’ pieces, and every job taking longer than it should’ve he would not be beaten. The kitchen is now complete with shelves, drawers, useful hooks, magnetic knife rack, hanging racks, smoke alarm and the long-awaited tap. The practical expertise behind my creative ideas, the G.O. also lined my very old Newling’s cordial boxes with lino, and created a new kitchen stool seat from a cheeseboard.

But the kitchen is what saved me. In the midst of the chaos I found myself at the bench chopping several bagsful of tomatoes from my step-FiL along with onions & garlic from the neighbours and basil from the garden for slow cooker sauce, as well as making pineapple icy-poles, ginger biccies, icecream and Christmas food. Familiar tasks which centred me.

I managed to hook up our wi-fi internet on the first Sunday while the G.O. was having a well deserved snooze but the combined influence of an unfortunately timed Windows 10 upgrade-familiarisation along with ongoing homemaking, gardening, an impromptu 4 day visit from my youngest sister & 8 month old niece delayed our return to real day-to-day life.

I wasn’t sure if I’d manage but I’ve just scraped in before the 10th of the month IMK cut-off for my first post from Taylors Arm. Thanks to Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef for taking over hosting of the monthly In My Kitchen and the blogging community for the inspiration & virtual company they provide. Special thanks to Mary, Kate & Celia for the lovely cards & housewarming gifts.

I’m looking forward to upcoming weeks of more holidaying & less house-work, and catching up with the blog world which during the past month I’ve missed and popped into far less than I’d have liked, in far too few spare moments.

For glimpses of our new life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right and if you are an Instagrammer, you can find me at dalelee011, and the G.O. at welshy055.


In My Kitchen: thinking outside of the box

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In My Kitchen at Sydney are 25 packing boxes and numerous other receptacles waiting to be filled, collected by the removalist and shifted to our house at Taylors Arm in 6 days time.

In My Kitchen at Taylors Arm are boxes containing the final supplementary pieces that will render our old kitchen user-friendly, a ten year work in progress. As well as shuffling furniture on the weekend to make enough space to fit in the contents of a one bedroom Sydney apartment last weekend the G.O. worked his handyman magic on the new stainless steel prep-bench under shelf with vintage Newling’s cordial boxes for storage. After the move, he’ll tackle smoke alarm, mixer-spray tap, glass shelves, towel/utensil racks, useful hooks and magnetic knife strip.

“Instead of thinking outside of the box, get rid of the box” ~ Deepak Chopra

In my kitchen are boxes and.., a trio gorgeous FJ&LC retro hued dishcloths, and yellow Oz harvest tea towel & ice-cream maker to match the walls
In my kitchens are packing and package boxes, Newling’s cordial boxes, a trio of gorgeous FJ&LC retro hued dishcloths, yellow Oz Harvest tea towel & Cuisinart ice-cream maker to match the walls… another knitted tea cosy – this one with poppies.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the In My Kitchen community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog until December 10 only. December 2015 is the last IMK hosted by Celia. Thanks so much Celia, I’ve enjoyed your IMK tenure. As of January 2016, IMK will be hosted by Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef.

In My Kitchen: up close and personal

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​With the festive season approaching and in view of our imminent shift to Taylors Arm I’m attending early to Christmas gift strategies and shopping.

Resigning myself to the inevitability of on-demand occasion-dictated gift exchange but hopped off the consumer-retailer spending hamster wheel, once again I’m favouring gifts of products we’ve enjoyed this year, purchased locally from people or organisations where dollars make a difference to lives & families not corporates & shareholders.

To package the goodies, I popped over the road from my office building to Eastland Officesmart and grabbed funky green paper bags for a $1 each.

One of the unfortunate things about moving from the city is we’ll be no longer within walking distance of our local Eveleigh-Carriageworks Famers Market so I’m stocking up on gift items of Olsson’s Australian Salt and Prickle Hill Worcester Sauce. I’ll also pick up a box of Jollie Gourmet dog treats for the lovely Lucy, my younger sister’s pooch.

I ordered boxes of my favourite Daintree Tea, and to avoid paying shipping for online shopped Oxfam finger puppets for my new niece, I added bargain multi-packs of fair trade chocolate as well as a couple of cat prezzies for my other sister’s kitties Addy & Nutmeg for whom play is preferable to food.

Getting in the swing of imminent Taylors Arm self-sufficiency, to add personal homemade touches there’ll be Bespoke Muesli, liquid hand soap, and after test baking the Passion Fruit Garden’s Gingernuts recipe I’ve designated them Christmas Biscuits 2015.

For Nambucca Valley flavour there will be perennial favourites; macadamias from MacNuts and soap from Perry’s Lemon Myrtle.

festive goodies_up close and personal

Over the past few years our gift giving trended to consumables; a response to our cupboards being incrementally stuffed with stuff. It’s my way of taking a stand, attempting to influence by example because despite ongoing efforts, we’re unable to persuade family and friends that although we appreciate the gesture we don’t NEED Christmas gifts.

During recent space clearing in our house at Taylors Arm I filled a box with well-meant but superfluous gifted miscellany and moved it to the G.O.’s shed prior to its next stop at a charity store in town. Possibly from whence it will do the rounds again and end up nicely wrapped under someone’s Christmas tree. Not mine, I hope.

‘Tis the season to shop small.

Shop Small Australia
“Shop Small® has returned to Australia this November. It’s a national movement committed to supporting small businesses at a local level. You know the ones — the family businesses, the start-ups and the independents that make each neighbourhood unique.”

Shop the Neighbourhood – Canada
“Shop The NeighbourhoodTM is a local shopping event that’s all about celebrating small businesses and making your community thrive.”

28th November 2015 will be… Small Business Saturday
“In an age of global markets and capitalism, it’s far too easy for small businesses to struggle and fail, even if they have superior products and services. We have the power to change this, and Small Business Saturday encourages people everywhere to shop with small businesses for just one day, and to change the world a little bit.”

As I see it, the alternative is the slippery slope uncannily depicted by images from depressing artwork portrays what our societies have become.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

In My Kitchen: a cereal discussion

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He likely hadn’t heard of Australia’s “muesli magnate” Narelle Plapp. The power of cereal isn’t to be underestimated. She went from selling from the back of her car to a $5 million business in a decade.

Her Food for Health brand’s Liver Cleansing muesli variety contains no sugar of any kind and is the only pre-packaged muesli I buy when my time and do-it-yourself muesli efforts run out. Thankfully it doesn’t happen much. This IMK month beyond making a batch of muesli from my pantry stash of dry goods, kitchen time has been non-newsworthy, so…

Food For Health muesli
food for health brand muesli

Myself, I’m quite enthusiastic on the topic, particularly when it’s about muesli, although inauspiciously defined by Urban Dictionary as “a clever ploy to sell hamster food to human beings”. That may technically be true… but muesli is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Muesli is truly an equal opportunity cereal. It can be fat free, sugar free, fruit free, gluten free, nut free, vegan… You can buy muesli in a multitude of pre-packaged permutations but I think the best and cheapest muesli is bespoke. My creations include only oats or oat bran, pepitas, sunflower seeds, coconut and raw nuts.

Bespoke Muesli: organic oats, coconut, pepitas, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Cost: approx $20 for 3 months supply
DIY muesli – oats, coconut, pepitas, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Cost: approx $20 for 3+ months supply.

Like Emeril Lagasse “I can’t tell you enough about cinnamon. Cinnamon is an awesome spice to use and it goes great with something like apples in the morning or in a mixture of fruit or in your oatmeal or even in your cereal”  my secret muesli ingredient is cinnamon, added with plain full fat yoghurt (preferably homemade) and a smattering of fruit -fresh, or frozen berries.

Muesli attracts cheap shots…

“Keating unleashes the lip on ‘muesli-chewing’ Moore… Former prime minister Paul Keating has labelled Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore a supporter of “sandal-wearing, muesli-chewing, bike-riding pedestrians” because she opposes the Barangaroo project.”

… and is often misunderstood.

“The [green] movement must look long and hard at itself and break out of the comfortable ‘muesli-belt’ if it is to truly reflect the views of the wider community.” Head honcho at Global Action Plan and friend of BusinessGreen Trewin Restorick says environmental campaigners must do more to support disadvantaged sections of society.

But it’s a cereal discussion worth having…

“Some candy bars had more protein than many cereals. [Jean] Mayer dubbed them “sugar-coated vitamin pills” and wrote, “I contend that these cereals containing over 50% sugar should be labeled imitation cereal or cereal confections, and they should be sold in the candy section rather than in the cereal section.” Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

“Rule 36: Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk.” Michael Pollan

“Episode two tells the story of a modern marketing miracle: the story of the breakfast cereal. The Age of Plenty investigates the processing, marketing and advertising behind a breakfast that has singularly impacted the way we live. Breakfast cereal marks the birth of modern day “convenience food”, invented to make cheap and lifeless corn bits edible and easy to sell, and promoted through reverse psychology, cereal has transformed the way we eat and consequently the way we live. This series tracks the multi-billion dollar breakfast cereal industry, explaining the impact of television advertising on the promotion and sales of breakfast cereals, which endures to this day.” The Foods that Make Billions

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

In My Kitchen: a success-ion of small things

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As winter in Sydney oh so slowly relinquished its chilly grip I made the most of slow cooked food, the type we tend to eat only in the cooler months. And ticked off a few new-to-me ingredients I’ve wanted to try. Hence we’ve eaten slow braised ox-tail, lamb necks and a soupy-stew made with pearl barley.

Warming up wasn’t a problem… au contraire… when we sampled the G.O’s cousin’s home-grown & homemade chillies in the traditional manner of their Uncle Ernie.

Because life has been quiet otherwise, I’ve been enjoying Saturday morning ​expeditions to Eveleigh Famers Market, a chance to stretch my legs with a good walk and the reward of a nanna trolley load of fresh produce. I’m in love with fresh turmeric I add to scrambled eggs for breakfast and Australian blood limes which added to a glass of wine spritzer makes drinking it a summer cocktail experience. Both from Kiwi Down Under Farm at Bonville on the Coffs Coast, NSW.

Also because life has been quiet there’s been time to appreciate crystal rainbows in the kitchen on sunny Sunday mornings, and I’ve indulged in a little retail therapy; adding few -more- cook books to my collection, a retro rose thermos & rose tin, and a quirky skull sugar spoon for sweet tooth G.O. In return, to underline the point we’ll be traveling light when we embark on our caravanning adventures the G.O. bought us foldable spoon-fork-knife doohickeys.

In the last week of August the G.O. and I slipped away for a quick roadtrip to Taylors Arm via Tamworth to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and picked up a few souvenirs along the way.

Best of all, In My Kitchen at Taylors Arm was blogger Kate from talltalesfromchiconia and her hubby who visited us while on a trip down south.

in my kitchen: me (left), Kate (right)
in my kitchen: me (left), Kate (right)

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

“For great things do not done (sic) just happen by impulse but are a succession of small things linked together.”
Vincent van Gogh explains what it takes to achieve great things in a letter to his brother Theo (October 1882).

In My Kitchen: not even half baked

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Late in June the oven in our apartment stopped with a pop; adjourning baking of the G.O.’s rain-checked sausages, bacon & onion gravy birthday dinner to the electric fry-pan.

Our relationship with the appliances in that apartment is uneasy. It’s coming up to 6 years old and the shiny appliances selected by the developers are more for show than go, rather than the domestic day-to-day use the G.O. and I put them to. We rent from my sister and in return for a not paying an arm and a leg we fix anything that goes wrong.

Even though I use it constantly I treat the oven cautiously since a couple of years ago I was wiping out the base when the door exploded into a storm of shattered glass that covered the expanse of the kitchen and then some. It took numerous telephone calls, 2 afternoons home from work and $600+ to realise the repairs. At the time I assumed something I did must have caused it but a later Google search for “smeg oven doors shattering” indicated probably not.

As we had enough food to keep us going for a few days and were reluctant to consider the unhappy subject of appliance repairers we took a leisurely approach to investigating the issue. A week or so later we tested and diagnosed a blown fan heating element as the problem. Once again I consulted Google, and found I could buy a replacement online. Which I did, from When it arrived the cardboard box went directly into the back of the wardrobe until the G.O. could get around to installing it… which took another week or so. 

In the meantime we had to eat.

Out came the slow cooker, for a pot of old fashioned pea and ham soup, onto the balcony because of its pungent cooking aroma habitually remarked on by the G.O. The ingredients -dried green split peas+soup veges+ham hock+Massel vegetable stock- cost about $12 and when cooked are so much more delicious than the sum of their parts. We it enjoyed for weekend dinners and there was enough leftovers for 5 containers of lunch soup for me.

old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view
old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view

Out stayed the slow cooker on the balcony and in went lamb shoulder, Buller’s Malmsey, Massel vegetable stock, onions, carrots, and potatoes for the making of Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie… except I forgot I didn’t have a working oven to bake pie so it ended up being Deconstructed Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie. The leftovers are slated to become ATMT’s Shepherds Piesties.

slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony
slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony

Out came the simmer mat I recently bought from Victoria’s Basement, and the big stainless pot. In went a piece of silverside, water, onions, carrots, celery, malt vinegar, mustard powder and brown sugar to transform into corned beef for the G.O.’s weekday lunches. On went slowly sautéed tomatoes.

corned beef and winter tomatoes
corned beef and winter tomatoes

Out came the retro pudding steamer I bought from Braidwood Markets and in went a suitably old-style recipe using pineapple & coconut jam also from Braidwood Markets. On that, later, went a new recipe for Perfect Custard made with leatherwood honey.

steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard
steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard

Out went our no supermarket biscuits rule guideline. In came ginger biscuits for the G.O.’s smoko. The Woolworths Select Stem Ginger Cookies are delicious but tooooo sweet. Far better are the Nairns Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits.

invaders... supermarket ginger biccies
invaders… supermarket ginger biccies

We survived several oven-less weeks but the last week of easy pasta and toast meals when imagination and time ebbed meant the other thing that’s gone out are our waistlines…

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back via comments on Celia’s August IMK post.

“But the kitchen will not come into its own again until it ceases to be a status symbol and becomes again a workshop. It may be pastel. It may be ginghamed as to curtains and shining with copper like a picture in a woman’s magazine. But you and I will know it chiefly by its fragrances and its clutter. At the back of the stove will sit a soup kettle, gently bubbling, one into which every day are popped leftover bones and vegetables to make stock for sauces or soup for the family. Carrots and leeks will sprawl on counters, greens in a basket. There will be something sweet-smelling twirling in a bowl and something savory baking in the oven. Cabinet doors will gape ajar and colored surfaces are likely to be littered with salt and pepper and flour and herbs and cheesecloth and pot holders and long-handled forks. It won’t be neat. It won’t even look efficient. but when you enter it you will feel the pulse of life throbbing from every corner. The heart of the home will have begun once again to beat.”Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)

In My Kitchen: birthday bits n’ pieces

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Having recovered from the flu lurgy that curtailed my Saturday morning farmers market expeditions I was desperate for farmers market eggs, fruit, vegetables, and meat. Despite stocking up there the previous Saturday, when Celia told me that Beth from Burrawong Gaian Poultry would have a stall at my local Eveleigh Farmers Market I didn’t hesitate in agreeing to meet her the next.

Even better, the G.O. took Saturday off work and came along as my porter and to select key ingredients for his traditional birthday dinner of sausages, onion gravy & mashed potato which he assured Celia you can live on.

IMK: Birthday bits n' pieces - flowers, apple rice meringue and Tojiro blades
IMK: The G.O’s birthday bits n’ pieces – roses “no-ones ever given me flowers before!”, apple rice meringue and Tojiro kitchen knives for his inner Samurai

The G.O. doesn’t get to the markets as much as I do but he’s familiar with and to the stallholders and has his favourites. So while Celia and I wandered around chatting to stallholders at Olsson’s Australian salt and Margin’s Mushrooms, the G.O. chatted to Mr Apples and Moobi Valley Meats. And came away with Pink Lady’s as well as Granny Smiths for his birthday sweet treat (my first attempt at this dessert made by his grandmother) plus sirloin steaks grown just up the road from where my grandparents had their farm when I was a kid.

The G.O. approved my selection of sausages and bacon from Linga Longa Farm’s stall and potatoes from Highland Gourmet Potatoes.

IMK: Traditional birthday dinner of the G.O.
IMK: Traditional birthday dinner of the G.O.

Did you know potatoes have a season? The guys that have this stall are lovely but we only see them from December to September. At the moment my go-to potatoes are Lustre for lustrous silky mashed potato, Emma for light crisp air-filled baked potatoes and Pink Kiss for old-fashioned tasty baked potatoes like my Nanna used to make.

IMK: Lustre, Emma and Pink Kiss
IMK: Lustre, Emma and Pink Kiss

Of course we caught up with Beth at her Burrawong Gaian Poultry stall and sampled her delicious pates and rillettes. The duck marylands were selling fast but I managed to buy 2 packs of 2 for Sunday night dinner.

IMK: Burrawong Gaian duck marylands 3 ways
IMK: Burrawong Gaian duck marylands 3 ways

By the time we left my nanna trolley was overflowing and my wallet empty. A few extras depleted my own funds and I had to borrow cash from the G.O. He’s not only handy as a porter but a mobile cash dispensing machine.

As I explained to Celia, how I make fresh food shopping at the farmers market viable is to use it all, and buy little other food for the rest of the week… and sometimes the week after… when freezer, fridge and pantry stock comprises the greater part of our eating.

IMK: Organic Australian oats, honey and salt
IMK: Organic Australian oats, honey and salt
  • Moobi Valley sirloin steak, baked Highland Gourmet potatoes, Muscat’s carrots & golden beetroot plus Darling Mills micro salad was Saturday night dinner.
  • Sunday breakfast was porridge made with organic Australian organic rolled oats and Highland Organics milk topped with Mr Apples compote, Nambucca MacNuts macadamias and R. Stephens Mole Creek Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey.
  • Linga Longa Farm bacon, Margins mushrooms, peas, pasta and cream sauce made from Highland Organics milk made a cosy lunch for a damp chilly Sunday.
  • Duck marylands slow roasted at 150 C in a bath of Massel chicken stock  and Buller Malmsey plus re-fried roast veges and steamed sugar snap peas was Sunday night dinner.
  • For Monday lunch the G.O. took half the leftover pasta, the other half went into the freezer. I took the leftover piece of cold sirloin and salad which I added to a fresh bread roll.
  • Monday dinner was noodle, vegetable and shredded duck Maryland stir-fry with puffy omelettes made with Thirlmere eggs, sesame oil and a dash of carbonated water.
  • Tuesday, the G.O.’s birthday, we headed out and enjoyed a lovely lunch of fish and chips at Watsons Bay so didn’t need to cook dinner. But we had room for birthday apple rice meringue made from Mr Apples’ Granny Smiths, Thirlmere eggs and Highland Organics milk.
  • Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the G.O. took apple rice meringue for smoko.
  • Wednesday I had an in-house work lunch and as there were no dinner leftovers the G.O. fended for himself.
  • Wednesday night I prepared the rain-checked birthday dinner of Linga Longa Farm sausages & bacon with Muscat’s onions and gravy made with Prickle Hill Worcestershire sauce from Coleambally and Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard, and mashed Highland Gourmet potatoes.
  • For Thursday lunch the G.O. took mashed potato, sausages and onion gravy for lunch. I took bits n’ pieces of leftover vege & duck noodles, omelette and baked veges.
  • Thursday night dinner was leftover mashed potato, sausages, bacon and onion gravy. The leftovers went into the freezer.

Note: We’re a 2 person household. We both work full-time. We live in a small city apartment and wish we had a vege garden and chooks. Maybe one day. For now, where possible I buy pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand. For us farmers markets an equitable option as if I can’t get there we spend the same money or more at supermarkets, takeaway food or eating out. My choices may not suit everyone –  it’s up to each of us to do what we think and best can. Corporate commodification of food, marketing, advertorials, profiteering and undue influence on our lives concerns me greatly. Shopping and eating mindfully is my antidote to that.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too…” Kurt Vonnegut

IMK: Apple Rice Meringue from The Commonsense Cookery Book (Source -
IMK: Apple Rice Meringue from The Commonsense Cookery Book (Source –