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Weekend reading

This season's first tomato harvest. I pick these when they're green to avoid the tomato grub. We can leave the cocktail tomatoes on the plants longer, but these are better ripening on the kitchen bench.

Gracie struck again. 😧  I got up at 3am a couple of nights ago and when I walked into the hallway, I walked on something odd. It was rice! Gracie found the rice bag I made for Hanno's balance exercises, tore into it and sprayed rice over three rooms. She also climbed onto the couch so she could reach my knitting basket, pulled out three circular knitting needles, chew them so the plastic broke, chewed an embroidery hoop and embroidery, narrowly missing a sharp needle, played with some knitting cotton and chewed on a number or pamphlets sitting on the coffee table. She was manic, running up and down the hall and only calmed down when I sat down at the computer and ignored her. After ten minutes of running, she sat down and went to sleep. She can't roam the house when we're in bed now. Last night she spent the first night on her bed in my craft room with the door closed. It went well. I have a few adjustments to make today, mainly moving electrical cables. From now on, she'll be confined to that one space overnight. Fingers are crossed.

Thanks for your comments this week. I do enjoy reading them and appreciate the time you take connecting with me. I hope to see you again next week. 

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Recycling lids

Many of us are trying to cut back on plastic by looking for substitutes for plastic wrap to cover food that is stored in the fridge. If you have a look in your local op shop or antique shop, you'll probably find china lids that used to sit on top of old serving pots. Usually, you can buy them for a couple of dollars. They make excellent covers for modern bowls and can be used over and over again. Or just look in your saucepan cupboard. You might find a saucepan lid just the right size for your bowl of leftover potato salad or fresh strawberries. If the seal isn't quite right, cover the top of the bowl with a square of moist cloth or a piece of baking paper and then place the lid on it. Most food will store well in the fridge for a couple of days using this method.

Our Sunday

Sundays feel different here, I guess they always have, but the reality of it is that Sunday is just another day. There are no weekends when you work every day. But instead of painting that as being drudgery, you know as well as I do, that this lifestyle, even on its worst day, is far from drudgery. So yesterday, our Sunday, I was up early, read the overnight news and watched my two favourite live streams. Yes, in addition to the bears in Alaska, for the past couple of weeks, I've been visiting the interesting and lovely sheep and turkey barns at Sanctuary Farm in Watkins Glen, New York.

The farm has been running since 1986 and provides a safe and comfortable life for farm animal that have been rescued from unethical factory farm practices. They have sheep, goats, cows, alpacas, chooks, turkeys and pigs. I know many children read here with their parents so I've been watching silently for a couple of weeks to make sure there was nothing that would upset them. I'm happy to report the farm is run by gentle and kind staff who seem to genuinely care for the animals they tend. I watched one staff member administer medication to a number of animals before the gates were opened and there is a goat with paralysed back legs who is attached to a wheeled walker. Many of the animals are housed in large barns with straw-covered floors at night and are let out to enjoy the sun and pasture during the day. It's easy to spend 15 minutes there drinking tea while thinking about the internet and the power of the many good people in the world.

Back in the physical world, Jamie arrived around 7.30am, Hanno cooked his favourite breakfast of baked beans and an egg with a cuppa, while I wandered outside looking at the bush house wondering if it would be the day I actually tidied it up. I cut back a few wild plants and selected some pots I'd plant into later in the day.  Gracie was outside, the chooks were let out, the sun was shining and all was right in my world. I went back inside to wait until the temperature rose above 9 degrees.  Brrrrr  ⛄️

On Saturday I made a really delicious soup. I slow-cooked some marrow bones, parsley, thyme and bay leaves for 18 hours and in a separate 9 litre pot cooked 1½ cups of barley and cubed gravy beef. In the food processor, I roughly chopped onions, carrots, parsnip, turnip and celery and added it to the half-cooked beef and barley. Then I added my seasonings - 2 tablespoons miso, 2 tablespoons Worcester sauce, 1 tablespoon paprika, salt and pepper. Then I added the stock from the slow cooker to the pot, topped it up with water and put the lid on to slowly simmer for another two hours. It was one of my best soups ever. We had it again for yesterday's lunch and I added herb dumplings then because I had the extra space in the pot. Fresh local strawberries and cream followed and all of us agreed, it was a very good lunch.

I wanted to bake something that Jamie likes so he could take a few home to share as well as take to school next week.  Having a Swedish grandma, cinnamon rolls are one of our traditional family foods.  I don't make them often, maybe once a year, but when they're sitting on the kitchen bench, the smell is divine and it just calls out for tea to be made. Immediately. We had a roll each for afternoon tea while we watched Grace run around the front yard filling her eyebrows and beard with weed seeds.  Pffft.

I'm looking forward to the coming week. The only plans I have are for a haircut on Wednesday and then to travel over to see Kerry at his new sushi shop to wish him a very happy birthday. I might just take some cupcakes with me for him and his staff to have with coffee when they have a break.  The rest of the week I'll be gardening, saving seeds, tying up tomatoes, tidying the bush house (maybe), cooking and knitting.  It's still cold here so our food will continue to be hearty and warm. I've planned a pork rack on our little charcoal grill during the week and Hanno has already asked for another tray of cinnamon rolls.

What are your plans for the week?

Weekend reading

Gracie, our beautiful Scotch Terrier, will be one year old soon. It seems like only yesterday when we picked her up from the airport after she flew up from a farm in New South Wales. She's really keeping us on our toes because like all Scotties, she's devilish, independent and intelligent. She runs through the house, skidding on the floor and crashing  into doors and walls when she turns a corner. But late at night and early in the morning, when she's sleepy and quiet, she's like a tiny baby who just wants her bed and a cuddle.

Yesterday, the groomer came to wash, clip and fluff Gracie. She doesn't mind being washed, or the hair dryer, but she yelped when she had her nails clipped.  After the groomer left, Gracie didn't talk to us and she refused to come inside. A few hours later, when it was getting dark and cold, she relented and slowly walked in. We've returned to normal - for now. 

Thanks for your interesting comments this week and for the support and encouragement you give me and your fellow readers. I'll be back again early next week, I hope to see you again.  Have a lovely weekend.  

Understanding Cat Tail Talk

How to substitute potatoes

Potatoes are a very popular vegetable in Australia. Those of us of European descent who cook our traditional family food often use potatoes in the food we cook and there are many potato-based foods that are commonly known, not just here in Australia, but in many other countries too.  I'm thinking of mashed potatoes, potato salad, hot chips, baked potatoes, potato bake, colcannon, potato and leek soup, wedges, frittata, shepherd's pie, cottage pie, fish pie, potato pancakes and many others. Surprisingly, to me at least, China is the world's largest producer of potatoes. The top five producers are China, India, Russia, Ukraine, USA. We grow very good potatoes in Australia, and a lot of home gardeners plant them every year, but Australia isn't in the top 25 potato-producing countries.

There was a time not too long ago when we used to grow a lot of potatoes.  Like many home grown vegetables, they taste much better fresh and just out of the ground.

Potatoes are one of the "good carbs" so they're frequently featured in family meals as a side dish, as a ingredient in frittata, salad or soup, or they're the main feature in vegetarian and vegan food. But one of the problems with this popular vegetable is that it's subject to price fluctuations because they're susceptible to rot after prolonged rain and prone to quite a few diseases. I thought it might be helpful for all of us, especially younger and new cooks, to discuss how we can replace potatoes with other common foods. After all, our job as homemakers is to not only cook nourishing food when we have all the ingredients we want but also when times are tough or we need to substitute ingredients to stay on budget. Don't forget to have packs of rice, pasta, polenta or couscous in your pantry. They'll sit there on stand by for a few months and you'll know you have that backup should you need it.

A sweet potato putting on shoots before being cut into chunks ready for planting.

 Purple sweet potato above, orange sweet potato pie topping below.

Sweet potato is the easiest replacement vegetable when potatoes are too expensive. You can mash, bake, or fry them and I think that they could easily slip in to replace potatoes in almost every potato dish. I prefer sweet potato as a pie topping and as a baked vegetable. If you have some room in your backyard, sweet potatoes are fairly easy to grow and usually produce an abundant crop.

Rice and salmon salad

Rice and pasta are obvious potato replacements in stews, curries, soup and salads. Both can be served in a stew or soup or on the side of a curry or stew. Rice salad and pasta salad, made with a variety of vegetables, is a good substitute for potato salad.

Dumplings are also great in a stew or soup if you don't have potatoes or are saving them for the Sunday roast.  They're easy to make, being very much like scone dough. Make them up about ½ hour before your stew or soup will be served.

Beef stew and herb dumplings.

  • 65g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups self-raising flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives or green onion tops, chopped
  • 150 mls milk or cold water
Rub the cold butter into the flour with your finger tips so they look like course breadcrumbs. Add the salt, pepper and herbs and mix to combine. Add the milk or water and make into a dough. Divide the dough into 6-8 small balls, remember, they'll puff up when cooked, and place the balls on top of the simmering stew or soup. Put the lid on the saucepan. They'll be cooked in about 20 - 30 minutes.

Sweet potato, pumpkin or any root vegetable can be added to frittata.

Polenta can be fried, grilled, baked or creamy. Creamy polenta is an excellent replacement for mashed potatoes so it can also be used as a pie topper. Simply make it up according to the instructions on the packet. When making creamy polenta you'd add butter and cheese to the final product, if you want to fry or grill the polenta, make it up according to the instructions, pour it into a flat tray with sides and refrigerate overnight.  The following day it will be set and can be cut into chips or squares for frying or grilling.

Couscous can be used to add texture to a thick soup.

Couscous can be used in salads, with curries or stews, with roast meats, as thickeners in soups and stews, as part of a stuffing for poultry or vegetables or as the starch component in fish cakes or meatloaf.  Homemade breadcrumbs can also be used to bind fish cakes and meatloaf so never throw out your stale bread.

So now it's over to you. I'd love to know what you replace potatoes with when you don't have any or want to save them for something else. 🥔

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