31 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 31 - DIY Lip Balm

Winter is on the way, and that means chapped lips. I go through lip balm so quickly in winter. I have them everywhere - on my bedside table, in the bathroom, on my desk, in my handbag, in the car - anywhere I'm likely to be.

Good quality lip balms are expensive. Good quality lip balms are easy to make, right in your own kitchen, and they're not expensive either!

Peppermint lip balm is my favourite, its refreshing and cool, while soothing chapped lips.

Peppermint Lip Balm

You will need:
1 tbsp beeswax
1 tbsp shea butter
1 tbsp cocoa butter
2 tbsp coconut oil
5 drops peppermint essential oil
Heat proof bowl or measuring jug (I use a Pyrex measuring jug)
Small clean containers (I re-use miniature jam jars)

Step 1. Put about 3cm of water into the bottom of a small saucepan. Turn the heat on medium.

Step 2. Put all of the ingredients except the peppermint oil into a Pyrex glass measuring cup.

Step 3. Place the measuring cup into the water in the pan, being careful not to get any water into it. Stir slowly until everything is melted, and then turn off the heat.

Step 4. Stir in the 5 drops of peppermint essential oil.

Step 5. Pour into small containers, and allow to cool and set before using.

Flavouring isn't essential, but if you choose to not use it your lip balm will taste "waxy" and bland. If peppermint isn't your favourite taste add another flavoured, food safe oil (any that can be used for cake making and decorating are safe to use in your lip balms).

If you are just starting to make your own lip balms, you can buy kits from craft shops, they are also available online. The individual ingredients are also available online or from craft shops.

I bought my first lip balm kit (now I just buy the ingredients as I need them to make more) from Aussie Soap Supplies (www.aussiesoapsupplies.com.au). You can also buy the tubes, jars and other accessories online.

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30 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 30 - MOO Onion Soup Mix

This will make the equivalent of one packet of onion soup mix. I suggest while you have all the herbs and spices out that you make up a few 'packets' by either doubling, tripling or quadrupling the recipe. Store them in clean, dry, glass jars, small Tupperware containers or in ziplock bags.

Onion Soup Mix

3 tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder

 Place all ingredients into a small resealable container or bag and shake.

That’s it, onion soup mix  without MSG, thickeners, anti-clumping agents, artificial colours or flavours.

To use as a soup add the mix and 4 cups of cold water to a pot and slowly bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 2 minutes.

Use as you would the packet soup in casseroles, meatloaf, rissoles, sauces, gravies, dips etc.

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29 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 29 - A Preserving Jar Oil Lamp, Just in Time for Earth Hour

Tonight we celebrate Earth Hour from 8.30pm - 9.30pm, so I thought I'd show you how to make a really simple but very effective oil lamp to use while the lights are out tonight, or any time you feel like a little ambience or the power goes off.  http://earthhour.org.au/

These little lamps give off an amazing amount of light and are great to use camping too. They pack easily and are inexpensive to make and to use.

Just remember, like all candles, tea lights and oil lamps, keep them out of reach of children and pets, just to be safe.

You will need:
1 small preserving jar and lid (about 300ml size is good)
1 nail and hammer or a drill and drill bit
1 strip of 100% cotton 10cm x 2cm
150ml olive oil
150ml water

Step 1.  Take the jar lid and using the nail and hammer (or the drill or anything else that will puncture the lid) puncture a small hole in the centre to feed the wick through.

Step 2. Cut your wick. It must be 100% cotton material. Synthetic materials  don't burn very well and will smell terrible; they could produce toxic fumes as they burn. Pure cotton will burn down and you'll need to pull it up as it burns off.

Step 3.  To make the wick roll the fabric along the long edge into a loose cylinder. Soak the wick in olive oil.

Step 4. Run your wick down to the bottom of the jar through that hole. Have about a centimetre of wick above the lid or you will end up with a pretty big flame.

Step 5. Put the water and then the oil in the jar. The oil will sit on top of the water and the jar should be almost full to the brim.

Step 6. Placing the wick in jar, screw the lid on tight.  Light the wick and enjoy the glow of your MOO oil lamp.

Olive oil burns clean, without smoke or fumes.
You can add essential oils to your oil lamp if you would like a perfume oil lamp. The aroma won't be very strong, you'll just get a hint of your favourite scent.
You can use 300ml of oil, but the water/oil combination seems to burn bright.

28 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 28 - Honey Roasted Peanuts

Honey roasted peanuts are the easiest snack to make, and one of the delicious for nibbling. You can spice them up (or down) by adding different spices or salts or change the texture by swapping almonds, cashews or walnuts for the peanuts - the recipe is flexible, something I love.

Honey roasted peanuts (or any nuts) make a tasty, crunchy snack with drinks, just right for the cooler evenings of autumn.

Honey Roasted Peanuts

500g unsalted peanuts
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Step 1.  Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

Step 2.  Line a baking sheet with baking paper. This not only makes clean up easier, it helps to keep the temperature across the sheet even and prevent the nuts burning on the bottom.

Step 3.  Place peanuts in a medium bowl (large enough to stir the peanuts).

Step 4.  Microwave honey and crushed red pepper in a bowl for 30 seconds and pour over the peanuts.

Step 5.  Add half of the sugar and the salt, stirring well.

Step 6.  Spread onto the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, making sure to stir the peanuts on the edges in to prevent burning.

Step 7.  Let cool for 2-3 minutes and then stir the peanuts, scraping the honey from the baking paper to coat the peanuts.

Step 8.  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and stir again.

Step 9.  Sprinkle with remaining sugar and let cool completely.

Break up the peanuts into single/smaller pieces and store in an airtight container.

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27 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 27 - The Best Ever Homemade Chocolate

This chocolate is meant to be a cooking chocolate, but really, it's too good to use just for cooking. It's great right out of the fridge, a rich, smooth, slightly bitter dark chocolate.

MOO Chocolate

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
4 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
1/4 cup agave syrup

Combine the cocoa, coconut oil and agave syrup in a bowl. Stir to combine then whisk until the mixture is smooth and shiny and starts to thicken. Pour into a  mould or moulds (if you are making individual chocolates).

To make block chocolate I use a silicone loaf pan lined with baking paper. The silicone pan is easy to remove from the block of chocolate and the baking paper ensures the chocolate is smooth.

To make individual chocolates I use chocolate moulds - the moulds in the photo are from Aldi. You can get chocolate moulds at craft shops, discount department stores and some $2 style shops, you can even re-use the moulds from Advent calendars, boxed chocolates  and Easter eggs if you wish to.

This is a rich, dark, slightly bitter dark chocolate. If you like a sweeter chocolate add one additional tablespoon of agave syrup.

For flavoured chocolates, add the flavouring of your choice with the agave syrup.

Agave syrup is available at any health food shop.

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26 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 26 - Making Rhubarb Champagne

When you grow rhubarb you understand it's either a feast or a famine. Those pretty red and green stalks can be few and far between while you're waiting for them, as soon as you ignore it, that rhubarb crown will just go beserk.

That's what has happened with my rhubarb. I've been waiting and waiting for decent sized stalks to start preserving for winter. As soon as I became busy with other preserving those stalks have grown tall and thick and there are hundreds of them.

Most of them have been turned into stewed rhubarb or sugared rhubarb for winter pies. But I kept some back, to make Rhubarb Champagne. It's a delicious, slightly fizzy, pretty pink drink that's as easy to make as ginger beer and just as refreshing. And if you grow rhubarb and lemons and make your own apple cider vinegar it is really, really cheap - about $1.00 to make

Rhubarb Champagne

5 litres cold water
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3-1/2 cups rhubarb
3-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Step 1. Wash rhubarb and lemon. Don't peel the lemon but slice it thinly. Cut the rhubarb into rough chunks.

Step 2. In a clean and sterilised bucket put the water, apple cider vinegar, sugar, rhubarb and lemon. Sit the bucket in a warm spot on your kitchen bench. Don't put a lid on the bucket, the mixture needs to gather the natural yeasts in the air to start the fermentation process. Leave for 48 hours (no longer or the rhubarb will sour the drink and it will be ruined).

Step 3. On bottling day, wash and sterilise bottles and caps. I use recycled soft drink bottles that have been thoroughly washed and cleaned; you can use cleaned and sterilised wine or beer bottles and caps if you can get them.

Step 4. Strain the rhubarb champagne through a cheesecloth or Chux. Add the rhubarb and lemon to the compost or feed the scraps to your chickens if you have them. Bottle and cap the champagne. Store in a dark cupboard for up to 2 weeks.

The drink is ready in three days - two weeks, depending on how fizzy you like your drinks and of course the weather, it's ready earlier in summer than it is in winter. Chill well before serving.

Makes four 1.25ml bottles of rhubarb champagne.

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25 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 25 - Monte Carlos

Monte Carlos are an old Australian favourite, Arnotts sure picked a winner when they added these delicious coconut and raspberry cream biscuits to their Assorted Creams range.

We Aussies buy them and enjoy them, but why? You can MOO Monte Carolos, really you can. And they are so easy; yet another thing we love that we've been conned into thinking we can only buy. So get out your mixing bowls and biscuit sheets, flour and butter and MOO them. And say "no" to buying these delicious biscuits because you can MOO them.

This recipe was submitted by Bridie West, and it's become a favourite in our house. When you serve homemade monte carlos to visitors with their cup of tea they are suitable impressed - another thing we've been brainwashed into believing we have to buy.

Cross them off your shopping list, get out the ingredients and have a go at making your own. I guarantee you won't ever want to buy them again (sorry Arnotts, but MOOing is better).

The recipe makes about 25 biscuits and doubles really well also.

Monte Carlos

185g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cup self-raising flour
3/4 cup plain flour
½ cup coconut

60g butter
¾ cup icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons milk
raspberry jam

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line biscuit trays with baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add egg and vanilla, beat well.

Add sifted dry ingredients and coconut, mix well.

Roll teaspoonsful of mixture into balls. Put on lightly greased oven trays, gently press down with a fork.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, cool on wire rack.

While the biscuits are cooling prepare the filling.  Combine the butter, icing sugar, vanilla and milk, mixing together until smooth.

To assemble, put a teaspoon of jam and a teaspoon of prepared mock cream in centre of half the biscuits. Top with remaining halves, press together lightly.

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24 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 24 - Bugs Be Gone Lotion Bars

Easter is only a month away, the last great camping weekend of the season for many, including us. It's the weekend when we seem to finally give in and admit that summer really is over and the barbecues, picnics, fishing and camping trips are coming to an end so we all head outdoors.

Well the weather may be cooler, and winter may well be on its way, but the mosquitoes and midgies and other bugs don't seem to know that.

If you're going to spend any time in the great outdoors, either at Easter or any other time, you'll need a good personal insect repellent. You could use a commercial product, but I'm not really keen on the ingredients in them.

Instead I like this recipe. It works, it's easy to make and it doesn't have any nasties in it.

Bugs Be Gone Lotion Bars

1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup shea or cocoa butter
1/2 cup beeswax + 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried whole cloves
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/4 cup dried catnip leaf
1 tablespoon dried mint leaf
1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops lemon essential oil

Step 1. Infusing the oil. Using a double boiler or glass bowl on top of a small saucepan, heat about 3cm of water (in bottom pan) until starting to boil. Place the rosemary, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, catnip and mint in the top part of the double boiler and add the coconut oil

Step 2. Cover the bowl or top part of the double boiler and keep the water at medium high temperature for at least 30 minutes or until oil darkened and smells strongly of rosemary. Alternately, you can fill a crock pot about half full with water, put the coconut oil and herbs in a glass mason jar with a tight lid, cover and keep on lowest setting for several days to make an even stronger infused oil.

Step 3. When the oil has been infused with the herbs take off the heat.  Strain the dried herbs out of the oil using a small mesh strainer or chux and pour the oil back into the double boiler. The oil will probably be reduced by almost half and you should have about 1/2 cup of the infused oil. If you have more, save it for next time!

Step 4. Add the shea or cocoa butter and beeswax to the double boiler and stir until all have melted. Remove from heat, add the Vitamin E oil and any other essential oils and pour into moulds.  I use silicone cupcake moulds, they are just the right size for the palm of your hand. You can use any mould in any shape, as long as you can get the bar out cleanly when it has set.

Step 5. Leave in the moulds until completely set (overnight is best).

To use: Rub the bars on exposed areas of dry skin to protect against mosquitoes. If you are pregnant, check to make sure any herbs you use are safe for pregnancy and omit the ones that aren’t.

*Dried Catnip - Catnip is not just for cat toys. You can get catnip leaf online, from herbalists. Some pet shops also stock dried catnip leaf. It is used in this lotion bar as catnip is about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, and a lot safer. It's easy to grow from a seedling and they should be available at your garden centre.

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23 March 2014

Just Making a Cuppa

I was up early this morning. Old habits die hard and after a gazillion (or so it feels) years of getting up at 6am I still wake, even on weekends, when  we aren't rushing to get anywhere.

Actually getting up early is one of my joys in life. I love the peace and quiet of the house when everyone else is still asleep, the stillness is almost tangible. I settled down to do some work and before I knew it Wayne wandered in to say good morning and it was 9am!

Then I was sidetracked again, and became absorbed in planning upcoming newsletters and Journals until I decided it must be time for a cuppa, and low and behold it was 11am!

That's well and truly cuppa time and I couldn't get into the kitchen quick enough to get that coffee going.

I made it as far as getting a mug out of the cupboard. Then I realised the dishwasher could be emptied, so I started. It takes all of two minutes to empty the dishwasher, and I don't need to concentrate so while I was carefully stacking plates and bowls and putting cutlery away I decided to do a slow cooked leg of lamb for tea, with garlic and rosemary vegetables.

Out came potato, onion, sweet potato, zucchini and carrot. I figured I may as well prep them and let them marinate in olive oil, rosemary and garlic until it was time to cook them - I'm usually exhausted by tea time on a Sunday so best get them done early.

While I was peeling the veggies I decided I may as well do the vegetables for a vegetable moussaka and it could go into the oven with the lamb, seeing the oven was going to be on for hours.  I diced onion, capsicum, zucchini, celery and tomatoes and put it in the pan with a drizzle of olive oil, some crushed garlic and a good pinch of oregano to sweat and cook down to a nice, thick sauce. While that was cooking I sliced the egg plant and some potatoes.

As I picked the egg plant out of the basket I picked up the pumpkin too. Today is a cold day (well compared to the weather we've had so far) so I thought pumpkin soup would be in order.

I put the vegetables for the moussaka on to cook and started cutting up the pumpkin.

And that reminded me I wanted to put the lamb on to slow cook. Out came the roasting pan, some garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs and a couple of lemons. I studded the leg of lamb with garlic slivers, shredded the leaves off the rosemary springs over the lamb and then squeezed the lemons over all  of it. And into the oven it went.

By now the sauce for the moussaka had thickened and smelled amazing. Spreading it over the bottom of my lasagne dish I couldn't resist a taste - oh my it is good! Next was the layer of egg plant, then the potato. I quickly made a cheese sauce to spread over the top and covered the dish with foil. It went into the oven with the lamb and I set the timer for an hour.

Back to the pumpkin. It was roughly chopped, along with a couple of onions and dumped into my biggest saucepan. I had some chicken stock in the fridge, and it was added to the pot, just enough to cover the vegetables. Setting the pot on a medium flame I left it to bubble and simmer away while I started to clean up.

It was about this time that Hannah wandered out and asked what I was doing.

I looked at the clock, at the stove and the oven, and at the dishes in the sink and told her

"Just making a cuppa".

Here it is, 3:06pm and I still haven't made it either!

Do you get up to make a cuppa and end up completely sidetracked, cooking, baking and cleaning in the kitchen?

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31 Days of MOO No. 23 - Simple Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is so easy to make, and so much better when you make it. It's rich and thick, full of flavour. Compare that to the thin, watery packaged stocks or the over-salted, artificially coloured cubes and, well, there really isn't a comparison. Homemade stock is just better.

To make a simple stock you need:
Chicken carcasses - two or three
4 stalks celery
3 carrots
2 brown onions
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
pepper to taste
12 cups cold water

Step 1.  Add the chicken carcasses and any scrap meat to a large stockpot or saucepan.

Step 2. Add the cold water and bring to a boil.

Step 3. Add the vegetables and seasonings. Bring back to the boil and turn down to a simmer.

Step 4. Cover and simmer the stock 3 - 4 hours.

Step 5. Strain the vegetables and bones from the stock.

Step 6. Return the stock to the pot and simmer a further 1 - 1-1/2  hours until it has reduced by half.

Notes:  Use the stock for gravy, to cook rice or pasta, or as a soup base. It will keep in the fridge for 3 days, and can be frozen for up to 3 months. This stock has no salt added to it during cooking; if you think it needs to be salted do so when you use it in a recipe.

I save the carcasses from roast chickens in the freezer until I have enough to make stock. You can buy fresh chicken carcases from the butcher, deli or supermarket but why pay for something you will have after a roast? The roasted bones give the stock a much richer flavour than a stock made from raw bones.

Don't throw the vegetables and bones out, add them to your compost bin.

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22 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 22 - Make a Gentle Shower Gel

This is a simple recipe for a gentle shower gel you can make yourself in just a few minutes, using ingredients you most likely already have.

You will need:
1/2 cup liquid castile soap (unscented if you want to add your own fragrance)
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp sea salt
Up to 15 drops of your favourite essential oil (optional, use if you have unscented castile soap)

Step 1. Pour the shampoo and water into a small bowl and stir to combine. Make sure they are well mixed. 

Step 2.  Add the sea salt and stir until the mixture thickens. 

Step 3.  If using add the essential oil a few drops at a time, mixing well between additions, until you find the strength of fragrance you like.

Step 4.  Pour into a pump dispenser or bottle. Give it a gentle shake before using.

Notes: If you can't find liquid castile soap (you should find it at your health food shop) use a gentle or baby shampoo instead.

Table salt can be used as a substitute for sea salt.

21 March 2014

I'm in Preservation Mode

I'm in preservation mode this week, self preservation mode. The garden is finally in full production (it's take all summer, it's not been a good year) and the tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum, egg plant, beans and pumpkins are all ready and needing to be used or preserved so we can enjoy the fruits of our vegetable garden over the winter.

The good old Fowlers Vacola has come out of storage and been cleaned up. The jars, lids and clips have been put through the dishwasher and stacked ready to sterilise.

The dehydrator is out on the verandah and the first batch of tomatoes are in it as I type. We love semi-dried tomatoes to nibble on, add to winter salads and to give pasta sauces a flavourful boost. There's a variety in the dehydrator, some little ones, some slightly larger (called Granny's Throwing tomato) and a few others that are self-sown and frankly I have no idea what they are, but they taste good!

There's also a lot of green tomatoes left so green tomato pickle is on the list of things to get done this week.  One of our favourite winter weekend lunches is a roast beef, cheese and pickle on freshly baked wholegrain bread toastie with a mug of vegetable soup. Yum! And I'm not sure I'll be able to wait for a cold, wet, winters day to enjoy one.

When I wandered outside last Sunday to see what was in the garden the beans were finally, well beans. They've been leaves and flowers for weeks, every day I've checked for beans and come in disappointed. Now I'm picking a handful every day, around 250g - 400g a day so far this week. Fresh beans are so good, and having a freezer stash of homegrown, organic beans for the winter just makes my heart go pitter-patter. Some I've left whole, others I've cut up, they're great for casseroles. Whole beans are especially nice steamed then lightly fried, just for a minute or two, in a little olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic.

The fig tree is doing what it does this time every year, and producing kilos and kilos of beautiful figs. The jam pot has been getting a daily workout. I've become the fig jam maker of the family. About this time each year everyone starts dropping off jars and sugar and putting in their orders for fig jam. The fig tree isn't huge, especially by fig tree standards, but it sure does produce a lot of fruit. Some of those delicious figs will be dried too, they go very well with a cream cheese as an appetizer (or to just enjoy while you're sitting with a good book ;) ).

The other thing I've been preserving this week is rhubarb. Wayne loves rhubarb and apple pie so stewed rhubarb is now happily stacked in ziplock bags in the freezer, ready to be made into pies and cobblers once the weather cools down. There's also a bucket of rhubarb champagne brewing on the kitchen bench, ready to be bottled on Sunday. I'll share more about that in another post - it's delicious.

When you grow your own food you realise very early on that there is either a feast or a famine. Thankfully we are in feast mode. Everything is ready at once so it's been a hectic week;  I feel like I've lived in the kitchen.

I almost have, the shelves are filling up, the freezer is filling up and once winter arrives and the garden slows down we'll have a little preserved summer sunshine to brighten our winter dinners.

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31 Days of MOO No. 21 - MOO Cooking Spray

If you love the convenience of cooking spray (and really, who doesn't?) you are going to love today's MOO. Cooking spray is so convenient, just pick up the can and spray your frying pan, baking dish, cake tin, biscuit tray or grill. It lets you measure and control the amount of oil you use in your cooking, nothing seems to stick when you've sprayed the pan and one can lasts a long, long time, making it seem quite frugal.

But have you read the ingredients list on the can? Oi! There's a reason cooking spray stains the things it comes in contact with - it's full of all kinds of nasty stuff you wouldn't voluntarily use in your kitchen. No one should put that stuff in their mouths, especially willingly.

MOO Cooking Spray

You will need:
Misting/spray bottle (I suggest a new bottle for this, you don't want one that has been contained with MOO cleaning solutions)
Oil of your choice (I use olive oil because that's the oil I like to cook with most)
Water, boiled or filtered

Step 1. Mix 1 part oil to 4 parts boiled, distilled or filtered water.

Step 2. Pour into your spray bottle.

Step 3. Shake well each time you use it (because oil and water don’t mix, or at least they don't stay mixed).

Step 4. Use it. Spray it on grills, in cake tins, in frying pans - wherever you would normally cooking spray. It makes fantastic fried eggs, without the extra fat and kilojoules.

See how easy that was? You'll still get the great non-stick benefits and of course the lower fat benefit too. What you won't get is the GMOs, the propellants and the other nasties hidden in cooking spray.

Notes: It may seem odd mixing water with oil, we all know they don't really mix. Oil on it's own won't mist, even with a misting sprayer. The water helps the oil to mist, and cover your pan or tin evenly.

Sterilise the bottle - you will be putting ingredients you use in cooking into it, you don't want it contaminated with bacteria.

Which brings me to the water. For the same reasons as above, and that you will be storing the spray, use filtered, boiled water to ensure your cooking spray won't go rancid or grow science experiments.

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20 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 20 - You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

My mother used to joke that my father would eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and tea, and ice cream and topping for morning and afternoon tea and supper if he was allowed. He loved ice cream.

And that's a love he passed on to me. I adore ice cream. So does Wayne. Strangely enough the kids can take it or leave it. But we like it. I don't buy ice cream, mainly because really good ice cream is expensive, and of course we simply don't need the calories, fat, sugar or other things in commercial ice cream.

Occasionally though I indulge our sweet tooth and make a bowl (or two) of lip smackingly creamy, delicious and decadent ice cream.

Decadent Vanilla Ice Cream

600ml cream (thickened will do, but pure if you can get it and afford it)
300ml condensed milk (MOO works a treat in this recipe)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Beat the cream until very stiff. Stir the vanilla seeds into the condensed milk. Very gently fold the condensed milk into the whipped cream.  Spoon into a freezer safe bowl and freeze until set - at least two hours.

You can add berries or choc bits or honeycomb or nuts, whatever you like really, with the condensed milk to make your MOO Decadent Vanilla Ice Cream even more decadent.

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19 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 19 - Toilet Bombs

When it comes to keeping the bathroom not only smelling clean, but actually really clean drastic times call for drastic measures. Everyone has times when visiting the bathroom can fill you with dread. It may be you have littlies toilet training or illness in the house or a dozen other reasons. Bathrooms are a thriving bacteria factory.

Deodorize and kill all those unwanted germs with some MOO toilet bombs.

You will need:
1/3 cup bicarbonate soda
1/2 cup citric acid
30 drops of lavender, peppermint and lemon essential oils
A tray to use as a mould - a flexible ice cube tray is good for this

Step 1.  Mix the bicarb soda and citric acid together and add the oils (if the mixture is not damp add a little water to the mixture).

Step 2.  Press the mixture into a mould (an ice cube tray is ideal) and leave to set for around 6 – 8 hours until they are dry.

Once set, they are ready to use. Drop one or two in the toilet last thing at night, let them fizz and bubble and work their wonder overnight. In the morning just flush for a sparkling toilet.

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18 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 18 - Crumpets!

At the Sustainable Cheapskating workshop on Sunday I had a small basket of produce I'd picked from the garden that morning. In pride of place was a slightly misshapen butternut pumpkin. I love butternut, it's my pumpkin of choice for baking.

But this pumpkin was allocated for soup. Freezer stocks were gone and Hannah was begging for pumpkin soup. With pumpkins being so expensive she had to wait until ours were ready, and Sunday was the day.

Sunday night we made a big pot of creamy gold pumpkin soup and it is delicious. We also made a batch of crumpets because in our house you can't have soup without crumpets - the two just naturally go together. Yum!

Crumpets are another thing you can cross off your grocery list. They are almost as easy to make as pancakes - truly they are.

MOO Crumpets

4 cups flour
2 teaspoons dried yeast
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
500ml warm water
150ml warm milk
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
Butter for greasing

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add water slowly, mixing well until a thick batter has formed.

Knead well until thick and smooth. Cover and leave in a warm spot for an hour to rise.
Add the bicarb soda to the warm milk. Stir milk mixture into the dough, beating well so there are no lumps. The batter should look like thick pancake mix.

Grease  a frying pan and egg rings or crumpet rings and heat to a moderate temperature. Place 1 tablespoonful of mixture in each egg ring or 2 tablespoonfuls in each crumpet ring. Cook over moderate heat until bubbles rise, leave a little longer so the bubbles set slightly then turn crumpets and brown the tops.

After turning crumpets, remove the rings and re-grease. Then start the next batch cooking. This recipe makes about 45 egg ring or 20 crumpet ring-sized crumpets.
Toast to serve. These crumpets freeze well.

Note: You can buy special crumpet rings from cookware shops for around $3 each. A cheaper option is to use 425g tuna cans that have had both ends removed - just be careful, the edges are sharp.

17 March 2014

31 Days of MOO No. 17 - Seed Tapes

A great part of the gardening and growing your own food experience is growing your plants from seed.

Seeds are not very expensive, but they need to be spaced at regular intervals and buried at a particular depth. That's great, except that seeds are small, some smaller than others.

And that makes it hard to plant them. Until now you've probably done your best, thinning the tiny seedlings when they appear. That's a painful job, it takes time, is messy and you risk losing plants.

Not any more! This is the simplest, easiest and most accurate way to plant those tiny seeds according to the guide on the packet. Try it once and you'll be converted.

Seed tapes. Yes, simple paper tapes with those pesky but essential little seeds evenly spaced and stuck on them that you plant neatly in the garden. No need for thinning!

You will need:
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp water
Toilet paper
Seeds of your choice

Step 1.  Start by making your flour and water paste. You'll use this to stick the seeds to the paper. Mix the flour and water in small dish (I use a dipping/sauce dish) to a paste.

Step 2. Tear off a length of good old Aldi toilet paper. I tear it as long as the kitchen table, simply because that's the surface I work on. You could make it longer if you worked on the floor or had a lovely, long kitchen bench. You can measure the length of your row or bed and make the strip of toilet paper the same length if you want to. Actually thinking about it, that would be the smart thing to do!

Step 3.  Fold the paper in half lengthwise.

Step 4. Measure the spacing for your seeds. Get your seed packet. I'm planting radishes for Hannah. Did you know radishes will grow all year round here in Melbourne? And they grow quickly, so using seed tapes will make progressive planting easy - make the tapes all at once, then stagger the planting. In this case the radish seeds need to be spaced at 5cm intervals so I've used a Sharpie to mark the spots.  Put a little bit of the paste on the paper at each dot.

Step 5.  Take a seed and drop it onto the paste.

Step 6.  Let the paste dry. When the paste has dried you can roll the strip of seed tape up loosely. Use masking tape to keep it rolled, it doubles as a label. Or use a paper clip to keep it together and a slip of paper to label it.

To use, check the depth the seeds need to be planted at, dig a trench to that depth the length of your seed tape. Lay the seed tape in the trench, cover lightly with the soil/potting mix and water in. You might like to mark the end of each row so you know where to plant the next strip.

Seed taps are so handy. Get them ready over winter for spring planting, and do a few of each type so you're ready for succession planting without having to worry about spacing seeds or thinning seedlings.

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