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Pantry Staples at Hills Homestead

Pantry
Hills Homestead Pantry Staples

A large number of people (mainly Thermomix customers) have asked what my pantry staples are, so that it’s easier to make food ‘from scratch’ and additive free.  I did put this list together rather quickly, so I will most likely be adding items to it again soon.  Thank you Kirsty Keys (from BK Wines) for asking me about my pantry just this week, as it motivated me to complete my list.

Pantry:

Bakers Flour – for our ‘everyday bread’, I buy in 10kg bags (Foodland, Honest to Goodness)

Organic Whole Wheat Bakers Flour

Whole Buckwheat (to mill down for gluten-free flour)

Spelt Flour

Rye Flour (for sourdough starter)

Rolled Oats – for Thermomix porridge, Anzac biscuits, milling down as fillers for muffins/bliss balls

Quinoa –  always soaked/cooked/then cooled and kept in the fridge for a quick lunch, with left over roast vegetable and feta cheese.

Instant Dried Yeast

Cornflour (I used to buy the Nurses brand as it was cheaper, but now I’ve found out that the White Wings brand is the only ‘corn’flour made of purely ‘corn’.)

Arrowroot starch – for gluten free cooking/baking, use as a thickner also.

Bicarb soda – used for cooking  and  cleaning  (Bob’s Red Mill – Aluminium free)

Baking powder  – to make Self Raising flour (Bob’s Red Mill – Aluminium free)

Cream of Tartar – to make Self Raising flour

Oils – Extra Virgin Olive Oil (cold pressed), Grapeseed Oil (for mayonnaise etc), Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil (I buy in 10L containers from Loving Earth ,

Vinegars – Apple Cider Vinegar (with the ‘mother’… see stockists here), white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar.

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Coarse Sea salt / Rock Salt  – to mill down in the Thermomix with a sheet of Nori (seaweed) to use as our everyday ‘table’ salt and for all cooking.  We have Himalayan (Pink) Salt crystals in a grinder to use at meal times.

Coconut milk and Coconut Cream – full fat, always using in Indian cooking and  in a dairy free coconut/caramel custard (see Quirky Jo’s recipe here  )

Brown Rice (to have with curries) and Italian Aborio Rice (for risottos) and Basmati Rice

Organic Popcorn – to pop for school lunchbox fillers, I buy it 5kg at a time from Honest to Goodness.

Wholemeal pasta / spagetti

Vanilla Beans – Vanilla Extract (homemade.. see how I make it here with just Vodka and some Vanilla Beans) – Vanilla Bean Paste

Tea – Dilmah, Rooibos – a South African caffeine-free tea (see here for health benefits), Planet Organic, Nerada Organic / Coffee Beans –  Organic, Fairtrade if possible

Honey / Peanut Butter / Vegemite / Homemade Jam.

Cans/Jars  –  Canned pineapple (for pizza), Baked Beans (Charlie still likes bought Baked Beans!), Tomato soup (I try to make, but handy to have store bought in a can!), Tomato paste (for pizzas, I try to make but again, sometimes needed urgently!) , Tuna in spring water, Red Kidney Beans (to make this amazing gluten free ‘magic bean’ chocolate cake)

Dark Chocolate blocks – to more expensive usually means better ingredients (ie Lindt chocolate), chop in the Thermomix to make own choc chips or mill in Thermomix to make ‘grated’ chocolate

2013-02-03_2342CacaoBeansSourDoCacao beans / Cacao nibs / Cacao powder – see the differences here.  I do have some Cacao butter sitting in my pantry ready to make my own chocolate one day!!

Honey (raw and local if possible, our bees aren’t providing much at the moment so we’re having to buy it)

Black Strap Molasses – I use this (along with brown sugar!) to add minerals to my homemade water kefir (ginger beer).   My Gramps used this as a ‘medicine’ for almost anything… and he also used it mixed up with chaff to feed his cows!

Rapadura sugar / Stevia / Coconut sugar  /  Refined white sugar (for making jam to sell at road-side stall)

Pure Maple Syrup ($10 / bottle at grocery store, but so much nicer that Maple Flavoured Syrup, and better for you)

Dried fruit    – I buy huge amount of dates (they are one of the few dried fruits you can get that don’t have sulphites added to preserve them)

–  sultanas     – bought in bulk from Honest to Goodness 

– dried apricots – difficult and expensive to get sulphite-free, so sometimes I buy them from a supermarket, sometimes from a market, and sometimes we can buy apricots in bulk and make our own.

Adding the almonds, pistachio kernels, and sunflower kernels....

Nuts – I have huge jars stored high up in the pantry (away from kids that are allergic to nuts), peanuts, macadamias, cashews, almonds, walnuts.

Seeds – linseeds and sunflower seeds (for gluten-free bread and for bliss balls and muesli bars), Chia seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds.

Onions (brown and red) stored in brown paper bags with holes punched in them;  Potatoes; Pumpkins  09-2013-04-08_4427Autumn Garden

Homemade preserved peaches/pears/apple

Rice Cakes and Vita Wheat Biscuits as fillers in lunch boxes –   I don’t usually keep up with making all savoury biscuits from scratch!  I occasionally make up a batch of sourdough crackers that are lovely and so good for you.

Spices –   coriander seeds  /  fresh ginger  /  paprika / nutmeg (whole and ground) / cloves / chilli powder / cinnamon (sticks and ground) / ginger (ground) / cumin seeds and fegugreek seeds and mustard seeds (for Indian Cooking);

‘ all spice’ berries and cardamom pods (from Organic market) to make my favourite Chai Tea Concentrate;  whole black peppercorns, curry powder

Hanging up on the wall by the stove – garlic / chillis (tied with string to dry, then you just grab one or two as you need them) /  rosemary  /  thyme  /  bay leaves.

In large bowls I pop oranges / limes / lemons (locally grown lemons).  I peel the lemons and use this zest to mill up in the Thermomix to colour and flavour custards/sorbets/ dressings etc.  I pop sliced lemon in my water jug.

Currently I only have sage (HUGE amounts) and a bit of parsley and oregano in the garden, would love to have fresh basil!!

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Fridge:  Eggs (from our chooks)

Raw milk (we have a dairy cow!  Other Adelaide sources are via a cow share program from First Fruits and a few dairies around Adelaide that sell ‘bath milk’)

Fresh veges and fruit

Thermomix Vegetable Stock Concentrate  (recipe here)

Homemade Red Thai Curry Paste (Thermomix Everyday Cookbook recipe)

Homemade tomato sauce  (recipe here) and homemade sweet chill sauce.

Homemade mayonnaise (garlic/egg/mustard/Grapeseed oil)

Cheese – Tasty cheese, Parmesan cheese, Philly Cheese (for dips)

Homemade Thermomix Natural Yoghurt (mix with honey and vanilla extract)

Freezer:  Beans and Corn on the cob  – grown and blanched and stored in plastic Ziploc bags

Homemade (Thermomix) chocolate and vanilla icecream

Leftover Thermomix sorbet in plastic containers ready for school lunches

A huge tub of frozen homemade mini pizzas, scrolls, rolls ready to grab for school lunches

‘Homegrown’ beef/lamb

Breadcrumbs –  crusts of our homemade bread, milled down in the Thermomix and stored in freezer in Ziploc bags

Ziploc bags filled with peeled frozen bananas / blackberries (home grown)/ raspberries (home grown)

Note:  this pantry/fridge/freezer has developed over a few years (ie I’ve had a Thermomix for nearly 3 years now, prior to having the Thermomix I would never need or use 1/2 of the above ingredients).  Also my amazing husband and father-in-law are the one’s providing the raw milk / grass-fed beef / fresh eggs / home grown fruit and vegetables.

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Glass bottles - ready for raw milk distribution!

Our bee hive and raw honey.
Our bee hive and raw honey.

morning routines       .

 

.. and just a photo to show you how real food cooking and ‘making everything from scratch’ is MESSY… you are continually in the kitchen making messes and cleaning up messes!

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Charlie’s Rainbow Sorbet Cake

 

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Each year, I ask the kids what birthday cake they’d like, they look up cake’s in the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake recipe books, or we google ‘best cakes ever’, or they just think of ideas and let me know.    Charlie’s birthday is in the middle of January – Summer! – and she wanted  ‘rainbow sorbet cake’!  We had a look around google images but she could not find what she wanted.  So she drew it, coloured it in, thought of the fruits that we could have in each layer, and gave it to me…. and we managed to pull it off last weekend for her birthday celebrations.  The best part about this bright, colourful ‘cake’, was that it was all natural fruits giving it the flavour and colour!!!

Recipe for ‘Charlie’s Rainbow Sorbet Cake’

You need to think about the ‘cake’ a week in advance (unless you have an endless supply of cake tins!.. and loads of ice in the freezer).  It’s also handy to have a Thermomix 😉 or a really good food processor that can handle crushing a lot of ice.

Basic Sorbet Recipe

Pour 50g raw sugar into your Thermomix/food processor.

Mill the sugar on Speed 9 for 10 seconds.

Add 350g fresh or frozen fruit (peeled kiwi fruit, peeled oranges, blueberries, strawberries, banana, raspberries etc) and 1 egg white to the sugar. I added a banana to the fresh fruit for most of the sorbet layers as it makes a creamier, softer, ‘icecream’ type texture.

Mix on Speed 5 for 15 seconds.

Add 800g – 1kg of ice (4 to 6 trays of ice) to the bowl.

Mix for 1 min 30 seconds.   If the ice cubes start to get pushed to the top of the Thermomix bowl, then take the measuring cup out, and push the ice down with the spatula.  You can leave the spatula in the lid for the rest of the mixing time if you want.

Make a ‘batch’ of sorbet, and after feeding the kids a serve each, pour/plonk/scrape it out into a lined cake tin.   Flatten the sorbet into the tin using a spatula.    I used a ‘ring baking tin’ so that the layers would be thicker, so it would defrost evenly, and so that it was easier to slice up and serve everyone.  I lined the tin with baking paper on the bottom of the pan only.

Cover the baking tin with GLADwrap and put in the freezer for 3 hours, or until you make the next layer the following day.

Take frozen sorbet out of the freezer, dip a knife in hot water and run the knife around the edge of the tin to help ease the sorbet from the tin.  Turn the tin upside down and the ‘sorbet layer’ will pop out like a cake, onto your plate.  Leave the baking paper on the sorbet layer, as this prevents the layers mixing when defrosting, and it makes it easier to slice and serve.  Cover this layer with GLADwrap, and return it to the freezer.   Remember to refill your ice trays for the next layer of sorbet.

The following day, make another ‘batch’ of sorbet, and repeat the above process.

You can store each layer separately in the freezer, and put together on the day…. or you can clear out some freezer space and put the layers together prior to the day.

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Above: making a batch of sorbet… this one is blackberry sorbet….

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 Above: the ring baking tin I used for each sorbet layer.

Below: the blueberry sorbet layer resting on top of the kiwi fruit layer.

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By the time we brought the cake out to the table (on a hot Summer’s day!), popped some candles on top, took some photos and sang ‘Happy Birthday’, it was beautifully defrosted enough to slice and serve.  If it wasn’t such a hot day, you would take it out of the freezer at least 15mins before eating, so that it is soft enough to serve.

Here are some photos of Charlie’s birthday party ….

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Hills Homestead - Birthday Cakes

signed - hayley @ hills homestead

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Cacao Beans – Health Benefits & satisfy that chocolate craving – Cacao bean recipe!!!!

I have now found many uses for my cacao(chocolate!)  beans!!  AND many reasons why it’s great to eat them!

What are cacao beans?

Milling Cocao Beans

I found the following picture on Facebook that shows the Cacao Bean and the various forms it comes in – it helped me work out what I need when I experiment with making chocolate!!!

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Picture above:  My Cacao Beans in my Thermomix – ready to be milled for a recipe.

  • Cacao beans are small, quite bitter (if you eat them ‘raw’), and brown in colour.
  • It is a seed of the fruit of a tree in the Amazon jungles!
  • The natives used cacao as a medicine – it was used to build strength, help digestion, decrease fatigue, anaemia, and fevers.
  • Nearly all of the world’s cacao trees are grown on small family farms because cacao farming is labour-intensive and time-consuming (Source: Harcourt-Cooze, Willie 2010 “Willie’s Chocolate Bible” Hodder & Stoughtom Great Britain)
  • The word ‘cacao’ actually means ‘cocoa’.   Apparently the Brittish found it difficult to pronounce the word ‘cacao’ – or ‘ka-cow’ – so it’s been ‘cocoa’ to us all ever since!
  • So cacao is chocolate!   ” All the antioxidant value, mineral benefits, neurotransmitter rejuvenating properties, and overall health-giving qualities of chocolate are found in Cacao Beans! ” (Source: here)
  • Theobroma cacao, which literally means “Cacao, the food of the gods.”
  • Cacao is actually one of the great weight loss foods because it contains the minerals and molecules that shut off the appetite.
  • It is one of nature’s most fantastic superfoods due to its mineral content and other varied properties.
  • Recent research shows that dark chocolate stimulates feel-good endorphins, contains flavonoids (a powerful antioxidant), serotonin (which acts as an anti-depressant), and may be beneficial to blood circulation and helpful in lowering blood pressure. (Source: Harcourt-Cooze, Willie 2010 “Willie’s Chocolate Bible” Hodder & Stoughtom Great Britain)
  • I originally bought the cacao beans because I’d been reading about their health benefits.

Health Benefits of Cacao Beans?

Cacao beans are JAM PACKED with nutrients, and I’m keen to include them somehow in my daily diet.

  • They are powerful ANTI-OXIDENTS: more antioxidants than any other food! (Sources here and here)

“Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Source: Medline:Plus    Do you know what other diseases are caused by free-radicals?

Some of the degenerative conditions caused by free radicals include:

  • Deterioration of the eye lens, which contributes to blindness.
  • Inflammation of the joints (arthritis).
  • Damage to nerve cells in the brain, which contributes to conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Acceleration of the ageing process.
  • Increased risk of coronary heart disease, since free radicals encourage low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol to adhere to artery walls.
  • Certain cancers, triggered by damaged cell DNA.                        (Source: here)

The list is not to scare you! but to make us realise that we need lots of anti-oxidents in our diet.     Getting food sources of anti-oxidents is so important.  Some studies suggest that antioxidants are less effective when isolated from food and presented in tablet form.    Another source states that “research indicates that simply taking antioxidant supplements is not the best way to go about getting what your body needs. In fact, it’s possible that some of these supplements could be harmful. Fortunately, research is also increasingly showing that you can reap the potential health benefits of antioxidant intake by eating a diet rich in antioxidant-containing foods”.

Great sources of anti-oxidents are blueberries, blackberries, green tea, coffee, red wine, spinach, pistachios, almonds, And for dessert — Don’t forget that a piece of dark chocolate ranks as high or higher than most fruits and vegetables in terms of antioxidant content (Source here).  Notice they are mostly dark foods!

Now back to cacao beans (a nice dark food!), apparently they contain more anti-oxidents than ANY OTHER FOOD (Sources here and  here).

“Now blueberries are quite dark too, and they’re often thought of as being fantastic for our skin [and a great source of anti-oxidents] . But while blueberries contain 32 antioxidants, and wild blueberries contain 61 antioxidants, cacao beans contain an unbelievable 621 anti-oxidants!!! That is an insanely high amount”. (Sources here and here)   This is because the antioxidants are so concentrated –  antioxidants known as polpyphenols make up more than 10 percent of the weight of dry raw cocoa beans.

  • They contain an amazing amount of CHROMIUM, more than ANY other food! (Source here)

The top five chromium health benefits are:     1. Monitors the blood sugar      2. Aids metabolism    3. Reduces food cravings     4. Regulates fat and cholesterol    5. Prevents hypertension  (Source: here)

and chromium aids in weightloss (because it helps metabolism and reduces food cravings) (source: here).

  • They are a great source of MAGNESIUM, and again, the beans contain more magnesium than ANY OTHER FOOD!! (Sources here and  here)

“Magnesium: Cacao seems to be the 1 source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium is one of the great alkaline minerals. It helps to support the heart, brain, and digestive system (it fights constipation). Magnesium is also important for building strong bones. This is likely the primary reason women crave chocolate during the monthly cycle. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and is associated with more happiness. Magnesium is the most deficient major mineral on the Standard American Diet (SAD); over 80% of Americans are chronically deficient in Magnesium! Cacao has enough magnesium to help reverse these deficiencies.” (Source)

Magnesium deficiency — here are just a few:  anxiety, asthma, bowel problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, food cravings (chocolate is high in Mg!), headaches (including migraines), heart disease, hyperactivity, infertility, menstrual cramps, mitral valve prolapse, muscle cramps and/or tics, osteoporosis, tremors, wheezing and the list goes on and on… (Source)  I’ve also read about how magnesium deficiency is linked to experiencing morning sickness whilst pregnant (Source).

The is a lot more detailed information in the book “The Magnesium Miracle” and see here for more information on weaning off of anti-depressants and the importance of magnesium.

  • They contain high levels of Vitamin C.

I’d rather get some raw cacao beans into my diet rather than a little pill containing all of the above!

NOTE: The chocolate we eat usually contains no more than 5 to 10% cacao, the rest is fat and sugar and other additives.   Today’s chocolate, according to Willie, has been “diluted and polluted”, has almost nil health benefits.  So my recipes will be containing cacao beans in their raw state as well as other healthy whole ingredients.

I found a recipe that uses cacao beans and some other amazingly healthy ingredients AND tastes yummy.

I have cut it into bite sized pieces (like chocolate) and the kids LOVE them, I love them, and we can have one a day like a tablet – because it’s so full of goodness.

I have modified a recipe that I found in a book Rawlicious – Raw Food recipes for everyday! by Thermomix (you can find the book here).

I’ve called them…

Sweet Cacao Bean Bites

Cacao Bean Bites

 What you need / INGREDIENTS

55g Cacao Beans  (peeled or unpeeled – I used unpeeled)

75g Chia Seeds  (these are called ‘nature’s complete superfood’ – they contain more Omega 3 and Dietary Fibre than any other food from nature)

75g  mixture of whatever nuts/seeds you have in your pantry (I used sunflower kernels and almonds)

50g Pistachio Kernels

60g Raw Honey

Pinch of Sea Salt

(I then added a few drops of Peppermint Oil – I LOVED it – but the kids weren’t so keen, so I made it ‘plain’ next time)

METHOD

1. Mill the Cacao Beans –

(Thermomix: Mill for 20 seconds on Speed 10)

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2.  Add the rest of the ingredients.

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3.  Blend until well combined

(Thermomix: 40 seconds on Speed 7)

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4.  Press into a container on some baking paper (or a baking sheet) and refrigerate until you want to eat it!

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5. Peel off baking paper and cut into small ‘chocolate piece’ sizes.

2013-02-03_2396CacaoBeansSourDoCacao Bean Bites

6.  Store in the fridge.

Method Summary… in pictures…

Milling Cocao Beans

Method for choc cacao bean recipe

 

   Enjoy!

 

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PS I bought my Cacao Beans from Loving Earth – $12.50 for 250g – at the moment, Loving Earth have FREE shipping on orders over $50!

 

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What’s growing in the Hills Homestead Garden – Autumn in South Australia

Just loving the crisp Autumn mornings, and the sunny days!

The kids jump in front of the heater to get dressed into almost Winter clothes!  They then run outside to play in the sun, and soon there is a pile of dirty jumpers at the front door that they’ve stripped off because of the beautiful heat of the sun (and the fact that they are running constantly outside).  Yesterday they built a fort down in ‘Lilly Valley’, they played a mock netball game (no rings or court, just grass) with Daddy and their uncles and cousins, they sat in the cubby house to chat, played with the chickens, they rode their bikes up and down the driveway, climbed the neighbours apple tree and ate some fresh apples, then all came home for tea and fell into bed.

Thought I’d post some Autumn shots of what’s growing in our garden at the moment.  It’s lovely making lunches and dinners with fresh produce – beans/capsicum/carrots cut up for kids lunches, potatoes and chillis in the latest curry, pumpkin quickly made into soup whenever other food is running out!    My husband (and my father-in-law) are the best gardeners! and I am extremely grateful for the crates of potatoes brought up from the garden, the huge zucchinis plopped on my front door, and for the reminders that ‘you have tomatoes, lots of beans, carrots ready to be picked, chilli’s are ready etc’.

Autumn Harvest @ Hills Homestead – Today’s Photos…

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We are getting a handful of strawberries a day at the moment – so sweet and delicious!

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The grandchildren helped Grandad dig up potatoes on Saturday.  They spent the morning in the sun, getting dirty and having so much fun.  Grandad gives them a surprise (usually chocolate!) for helping with the potato harvest!

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I posted a photo on Facebook of someone’s celery ‘stump’ that they put in the ground and it grew!  So today, I tried it… we’ll see how it goes!

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… strawberries, carrots, green beans, rhubarb, tomatoes dying off along the pickett fence…

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… a new variety of pumpkin that my father-in-law has planted – it’s not Queensland Blue but tastes similar.. I’ll have to find out what it is we’re eating!!  I’m roasting some in the oven for tea tonight – yum!

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Small chilli’s – I pick them and just dry them on the kitchen counter – then use them to flavour dips (like hommus) or soups, and use them to make Red Thai Curry Paste (in the Thermomix! See here for recipe of Green Thai Curry Paste  and the recipe for Red Thai Curry Paste is in the Every Day Cookbook… that comes with your Thermomix!!!)

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Carrots!

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The last of the cherry tomatoes – had a lovely harvest of these over Summer and they dying plants are still producing a handful a day of little tomatoes!

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The last of the apples from our tree.

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More strawberries.

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… and beans.  The kids love fresh beans in their lunchboxes!

Children Playing  – Beautiful Autumn Weather on the Weekend !

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ADDIT – Some indoor activities …..

… a cubby house that the kids attempted to sleep in Saturday night (see picture below)  – they lasted a couple of hours, then they ALL ended up snuggled up in their own beds!!

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… Charlie’s picture before she headed off to school this morning …

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… and do any of you have a one of a kind friend who comes over and clears out and organises your pantry ?  I do!  Thanks Karen!!!

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Enjoy this Autumn weather!!!!

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Thirty-five Things to be Thankful for … on my 35th Birthday xxx

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It’s funny how what we value changes over the years.  I am continuing to count 1000 gifts (along with everyone else and Ann Voscamp), and I would never have dreamed even 10 years ago, that I am SO thankful now for the following ….

1.  Waking up to THIS beautiful family ….

Family @ Hills Homestead

2.  Eary morning walk …

3. Seeing the sunrise, the colours… AMAZING… the fresh morning air … AMAZING …

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4.  An outdoor SHADE

5. A child’s handmade ‘happy birthday’ SIGN

6. Scrambled EGGS/TOMATO/CAPSICUM and something else!? I couldn’t guess 🙂  made by my 7 yr old

7. Hot COFFEE poured by my husband

8. Phone calls from family …

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9. Friends

10. Making MESS in the KITCHEN and girls making LEMONADE to have with dinner

11.  Kefir milkshakes in the sun

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12.  Boys occupied and HAPPY and safe

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13. New chicks hatching EVERY day

14. Life

15. Children holding life tenderly and carefully …

16. Breathtaking moments

17. The 4 yr old boy innocently and gently finding out how many chickens will fit into a tissue box …. stopped by his mother just in time!

18.  A gentle father teaching and training and leading by example

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19.  Homegrown cherry TOMATOES

20. Exuberance and ENERGY and a 1 yr old’s love of life and adventure

21. Encouragement from a fellow hills JAM maker (thanks Jenny! YOU are inspiring)

Gift numbers 22. to 34…. see the gifts pictured below.   Even a year ago, who would have thought I would get so excited over some Quinoa, an African handwoven basket (yes, I’m an OT, no, I’ve never woven my own basket!), some ‘naked’ food, Fairtrade coffee beans, a beautifully handmade bag, homemade snacks in blue and white Op Shop tins …  thanks everyone ….

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 35.  Laughing and chatting with FEET in the cool water down at ‘mum’s creek’ ….

(and I’ll squeeze in a number 36. A huge dinner with family and friends to complete a perfect day … feeling blessed and loved and glad to be alive … )

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Picking Home-grown Apples

 

Apple Picking (7) Apple Picking (12)  Have you EVER picked and eaten an apple straight of the tree?  I do hope so!!!  There is nothing like it, the taste, the crunch, the juice that squirts everywhere, the crisp skin (not waxy and tough to get through!), … oh, it is lovely.  Every few days over the last 2 weeks, we have been picking a couple of bucketfuls of our home-grown Royal Gala apples.  They get eaten straight away or go into our fridges for snacks/lunches over the next few days.  The kids ride around on their bikes, then stop, and duck under the bird netting! and pick their own ‘snacks for the road’!!  I’m hoping we have too many to eat soon so that I can make apple pies, but I have a feeling that between the kids and our families and friends, we will be eating them all.

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Fresh apples in school and kindy lunch boxes (the apples keep nice and cold next to the fresh fruit sorbet leftover from the night before – whizzed up in the Thermomix of course 🙂 )

 

Jake getting the wagon to cart all the buckets of apples up to the house!!

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The John Deere wagon that we bought they boys for Christmas is the MOST useful gift!!!

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Getting underneath the bird netting is the most time-consuming business!

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Our Royal Gala apples Feb/Mar 2013

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Jake’s things to do with an apple 1. throw the one’s eaten by birds 2. balance them on your head 3. roll them down the hill to the chickens 4. eat them 5. pop them into a bird’s next 6. find the black hole in the apple and dig at it with a stick to try to ‘find the worms’ 7.  oh, PUT THEM IN THE BUCKET!  .. I don’t think even ONE of Jake’s apples made it into the bucket!

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Mmmmmmm…..

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The apple cores go back into the ground they grew from under the apple tree, great compost!

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Lovely kisses Jake!!!

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Charlie having a go with the camera – she had my camera in one hand, a 1/2 eaten apple in the other, a balloon under her arm, and one foot perched on the wagon to balance herself!

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A rest after a difficult and labour intensive… 10 minutes or so of picking apples!!!

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Apple Picking (12)  Action for the week – plant your own apple tree, or buy someone (or yourself) an apple tree as a gift!

… and if you can’t grow your own, buy locally grown, in season, and organic apples if possible.

signed - hayley @ hills homestead

 

 

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Homemade Vanilla Extract – Why didn’t I do this YEARS ago???

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Do you use vanilla?  In baking?  In smoothies?  I use it all the time.  We add it to our smoothies in the morning.  I add it to cakes/biscuts/slices.  I add it to homemade bliss balls or honey granola!

I previously used vanilla essence – it was cheaper.

ie Queen flavouring – natural vanilla essence = $3.98 / 50 mL

Queen imitation flavouring – vanilla essence = $1.50 / 100mL (or $0.75 / 50mL !!!)  Yes, cheap.

Ancor food flavouring – vanilla essence = $2.00 / 250mL (or $0.40 / 50 mL  !!!)  Even cheaper!

Then I had a look at the ingredients – Water, cane sugar, vanilla flavours, caramel colour (150(d)).   I was starting to try and avoid additives in food so that my children can really taste the true flavours and see the true colours of real food, and also see what actually went into their food.   So I began to purchase Vanilla Extract.

Now this has been expensive the last few years.  I’ve been buying 50mL Vanilla Extract for $12!  The cheapest I’ve found online is $9 for 100mL which is A LOT cheaper, but has water added, and it’s not organic.   Vanilla is something with such a strong flavour and such a long shelf life, and something I use daily so I choose organic.

So I looked at the ingredients list on the vanilla extract I was buying:

1. Water

2. Alcohol

3. Vanilla pod and extracts of vanilla pods.

And then made ….

Homemade Vanilla Extract

 

 1. Gather the ingredients – 5 Vanilla Beans + a bottle of Vodka.

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I used ‘local’ organic vanilla beans from Beach Organics in Middleton, South Australia.

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See address below – you can order any of their products online – they also have coconut palm sugar, cacao butter, herbs & spices, sea salt, local honey…

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I used a bottle of vodka that I just added to my home delivered grocery order.  It cost my $38 for a 700mL bottle.

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2. Get out 5 vanilla beans, and with a sharp knife, slit each of them open lengthwise

See picture below.

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3. Pop the split vanilla beans into the bottle of vodka.

And you’re done!  It’s that easy!

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Put the bottle of homemade vanilla extract in your dark pantry next to something you see everyday (like your butter, or spices, or salt and pepper) so that you remember to give it a gently shake every day (for about a week), then just give it a gentle shake whenever you see it or remember too, to disburse the vanilla extract through the vodka.  Leave it for a couple of months ( or 6 or 7 months!! depending on how concentrated you want the extract to be) before putting into smaller bottles.

I pour the homemade vanilla extract into my bought vanilla extract 50mL bottles (I kept them all… for some reason!), and I pop an extra vanilla bean into it, for “continuing maturity” (that’s what it says on the back of my bottle of purchased Equagold Pure Vanilla Extract).  This vanilla bean can stay in the little bottle indefinitely, you just keep topping the bottle up with your homemade vanilla extract.

I stick a “Hayley’s Homemade – Vanilla Extract” sticker on the bottles and give them away for presents and keep a couple topped up in my pantry for every day use.

Now this recipe cost me …

1.   I bought Skyy Vodka, a 700mL bottle for $38 from Foodland (I don’t know whether that’s expensive or cheap.. I don’t buy Vodka all that often.. actually at all!!!)  = $2.70 / 50mL

2. Beach Organics – organic vanilla beans, a bag of 10 for $20. = $2 per organic vanilla bean

(… at local supermarkets they are usually around $4 / 5g  = usually only 1 vanilla bean … you can find them cheaper at large fruit and vege stores and markets …)

So for each 50mL bottle of vanilla extract, I’m paying less than $4.70 (compared to $12)  … it’s less than this because there is definitely not a whole $2 vanilla bean / 50mL of extract, AND I’ve been topping up with a bit of water to make it go further.

I hope that you are able to try this in your own kitchen.  Imagine never having to buy vanilla extract or flavouring again because you make your own.  TOO easy.  SO much cheaper the buying Vanilla Extract.  Also, it’s a much healthier option vs Vanilla Essence or Flavouring.

ADDIT !!!  A reader just sent a comment in (see below) about another supplier of organic vanilla beans – Sunshine Vanilla – who sell organic vanilla beans in bulk – you can get them for under a $1 each (if you buy 60 of them for $50) … you can make it NOW for EVERYONE for Christmas this year!!!!  Thanks Tanya!

signed - hayley @ hills homestead

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Look what was delivered today!!!!

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Is this normal??  To get this excited over a food delivery??  It’s just that it’s my first bulk order of coconut oil (which I use for everything – from eczema to lip gloss to peppermint creams coated in dark chocolate and cooking)

and my first EVER order of Cacao Beans.  All from lovingearth .  Loving Earth is a Melbourne-based company that are dedicated to distributing products that are  ….

 

 

Healthy:

 

  • They are sugar, dairy and gluten free.
  • Are minimally processed, with low temperatures where possible.
  • There are no artificial additives to any of the products.
  • Our focus is to source and develop products that are in their optimal nutritional
  •  state.
 Sustainable:
  • Produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides and
  • herbicides.
  • Cultivated in such a way as to help restore native ecosystems, prevent erosion and
  • support water conservation.
  • Use traditional permaculture systems and where possible are shade grown using
  •  native canopy species.
 Fair:
  • Are produced according to Fair Trade standards, that involve producers and
  •  workers being paid not only a fair price,
  •  but also being empowered with the skills and infrastructure to add as much value
  •  to the raw products as possible.
  • Create healthy environments in which producers and their families live and work.
  • Re-invest in community infrastructure such as educational, health and other
  •  essential services.   See lovingearth website for more information...

Oh, and they are delivering for FREE all over Australia in Jan 2013!!!

I can’t wait to share some of the new recipes that I’m going to trial using Cacao Beans, Coconut Oil, Vanilla Powder, and the Agave Syrup!!

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Birthday Celebrations Today – Cake Pictures… and Real Food at a Kids Party?!

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I LOVE birthdays.  My mum always made my sisters and I feel so special on our birthdays growing up.

I also want to make my children feel special as we celebrate the DAY THEY WERE BORN and how BLESSED WE ARE to have them in our lives!

Every year, I ask the kids what special birthday cake they would like me to make … and yes, they can choose anything… and this year Charlie wanted a ‘Carousel’ or ‘Merry-Go-Round’ cake.

 

She Googled this picture….

Source:  http://www.pinkfrosting.com.au/persistent/catalogue_images/products/301-1335b.jpg

… and said “I want this one please mummy!”   This picture is what we based our creation on.

So after 3 trials of different ‘icing’, and a leaning, top heavy cake sliding off of it’s post, and a lot of ‘fixing’ mistakes… and a LOT of licking of fingers… the Carousel Cake was completed in the early hours of this morning!!!!!!!!!

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It was put together in one night (last night) only because of a lot of preparation.

The cake…

A few weeks ago, I baked the chocolate cakes X3 and put them in the freezer.

I used ‘Mrs Ripberger’s’ recipe for ‘moist chocolate cake’ because it is –

1.  EASY to make

2. you can make TRIPLE the quantity in one big saucepan

3. you don’t need a machine (even the Thermomix sat quietly while I made this mixture in the saucepan!)

4. and it’s DELICIOUS !!! and MOIST and EVERYONE loves it at a party.

Recipe for ‘Boiled Chocolate Cake’ (I’ve just doubled the recipe – so it makes 6 log cakes)

Get out a HUGE saucepan (if you triple the recipe as I usually do for birthdays).

Pop it on the stove and turn it on low.

ADD a 250g block of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water, and 4 Tbsp of cocoa.

Turn up the heat and stir until butter is melted and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Take it off the heat and cool.

Then (once cooled) ADD 3 cups of Self Raising Flour, 4 eggs, and 1 tsp of Bicarb Soda.

Mix well.

Pour into baking tins or muffin trays.

Bake in the oven at 180 degrees Celcius.

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For today’s Carousel Cake, I made 3 round cakes (in 8 inch or 20cm round baking pans) and a whole heap of muffins.

I pull the cakes out of the freezer a couple of hours before I decorate.  Half frozen cakes are easier to cut when making cake creations – they don’t crumble or break – and the icing ‘sets’ quickly on the cake too.

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The icing….

My aim for the icing was to make it ‘colour’ and ‘flavour’ free so I looked up some egg white recipes (we have a LOT of eggs at the moment).

The first icing I tried (see white icing top/centre in the picture above) was Royal Icing – just an egg white and 1 cup of icing sugar whipped up in the Thermomix for 2 mins.  It didn’t work.  I would have had to make  6 batches to cover the whole cake! and it went SO HARD before I could even spread it! and it tasted of course like ‘wedding cake’ icing which the kids aren’t keen on, just too sweet …….. so even though it was  a beautiful white I tried something else.

I then made my usual butter icing (whip up a cup of unsalted butter with a drop of water and vanilla extract, and  4 or more cups of icing sugar – yes, I do it in bulk) but I kept on adding too much water and needing too much icing sugar and the it was kids bedtime and I was distracted…. so I put the huge bowl of icing in the fridge to ‘set’… and went to Google to find another ‘colour-free’ and ‘flavour-free’ recipe.

And the I found THIS recipe on the Super Kitchen Machine blog for the most amazing ‘Swiss Meringue Butter Cream Icing’!!!

I had never heard of it before, but it sure looked delicious, and there was a Thermomix recipe for it so I gave it a whirl.  (You could also do it in your Kenwood /Kitchen Aid etc).

It has egg whites, sugar, pinch of salt, and unsalted butter – all real ingredients – no colour or even flavour added – it turned out a beautiful pastel yellow colour – AND tasted even better than any other icing I’ve ever tasted!!!!

I used this meringue icing on the top 2 cakes of the carousel, then the butter icing for the bottom cake, and for all the cupcakes.

The pink butterflies and flowers…

The ‘candies’ we made a couple of weeks ago with the kids.  Simple ingredients (icing sugar, gelatine, water, and a drop of red food colouring),  easy, and so effective.  The last few years we’ve even made ‘candy Easter eggs’ using this recipe.  I’ll do a post on these another day (because it is so cool to make ‘lollies’ or ‘candies’ for your own birthday parties – the kids love it and it saves money also!)

The horses….

They are little wooden horses from Spotlight, painted white one night with the kids, then the next day decorated (painted eyes, saddles) with coloured paints.  Another holiday activity with the girls.  The above horses were the same one’s that I used a couple of years ago for my other daughter’s cake, so they were already in the birthday box!

Other bits and pieces…

I received a new ‘Cookie Press and icing set’ from my in-laws for Christmas…  (what a cool gift!!)

   Its the SAVANNAH Cookie Press and icing set and I just found a review on it here

I used this to put the icing in the centre of the flowers, to stick on some of the obnoxious little pink flowers that kept falling off (most just stuck so easily and beautifully to the sticky meringue icing), and  to decorate all of the chocolate muffins.

The pink stripy patty pans/cups were 3.95 from Neds – I bought them in bulk a few years ago and use them at the girls birthday parties.

And with the help of my Thermomix, I was able to feed the kids some ‘real food’ this birthday party (aside from the musk sticks, mint leaves, and candies on the cake!)

Menu – Spicy Thai Hommus & Sundried Tomato/Cashew/Capsicum Dips

– Corn Chips

– Carrot/Capsicum/Celery Sticks

– Dried Apricots

– Fresh Cheese/Tomato Bread (pull apart)

– Meringues drizzled with dark chocolate

– Homemade Chocolate and Vanilla Icecream

– Caramel Popcorn Balls

– Fresh Fruit

Then for extended family and extras who stayed for tea, I made some extra fresh bread, had extra piles of carrot sticks, celery sticks, capsicum stick, and I had frozed some mince patties shaped into ‘sausages’ (minced meat from our grass-fed beef… by the way, did you watch Food Inc the other night on SBS??  It’s still on the SBS website for another few days).  I pulverised a whole huge zucchini, some squash from the garden (that I never know what to do with!), an onion, cloves of garlic, a capsicum, and a few stalks of celery in the Thermomix, then added this to the mince and mixed it with my hands – the veges made the mince go even further, and if the kids didn’t eat the vege sticks, it didn’t matter as the veges are in the patties! AND they tasted delicious (not just my opinion, others commented also!!) AND all the children ate them!!!

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Well, that was Charlie’s 7th birthday party today.  It was a lovely day.  And I’m going to go and fall into bed….

Addit…

I just looked up the above white carousel cake that Charlie found on Google images  – it cost $75 – and that’s with 20% off!!!!  So I saved a bit  (and I don’t mind ‘spending’ the time).

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The ‘bests’ of 2012…

Over here at ‘(In)courage – home for the hearts of women’, there is a growing list of BEST books, BEST recipes, BEST music, BEST everythings……  add yours and you can win Ann Voscamp’s book/devotional  “1000 Gifts” (or can purchase at Koorong Bookstore Online here).

Here’s my list …

  1. BEST song 2012…  “Blessings” by Laura Story
  2. BEST book 2012… “1000 Gifts” by Ann Voscamp… every friend who has had a birthday or needed encouragement (or for no reason at all!) has been given this book this year!  It’s been a blessing in my life these last few years to see and focus on and write down 3 gifts each day.
  3. BEST (easy) recipe 2012 … CADA that’s for sure.  CADA (made in the Thermomix – 2 seconds!) or (made in a blender) consists of a handful of Coconut (shredded), handful of Almonds, handful of Dates, and an Apple (cored) => blended for a couple of seconds to make a beautiful, sweet, grain-free, healthy breakfast!  Top with some yoghurt.. or kefir! or just eat it plain – YUM!
  4. BEST family experience….   my husband and I and our children all saw our calf being born one Saturday morning.  The photo below is just after it was born.  It was the first time any of us had seen a cow give birth – what a miracle!

 

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  5. The BEST website 2012 … GNOWFGLINS – God’s natural, organic, whole Foods, grown locally, in season.  WHAT a name! and what amazing things Wardee does in her ‘homestead’.  AND when I started this blog in Nov 2012, I was featured in her Down Home Farm Tours (click the picture below to see!!).

6.  BEST project to support for 2012 – Support for Children with Autism in Tajikistan – My friend, Karen, who has just returned from Tajikistan, has set up this amazing project that raises awareness and supports children who experience Autism and their families. This project has to raise $5,000 from 40 donors by December 31, 11:59 PM EST to earn a permanent spot on GlobalGiving!!!  Please consider giving today – Donate here.

7.  BEST quote found on Pinterest –

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8. BEST picture posted on Facebook –

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9. “BEST things in life are free …. ”

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10.  BEST new blog on the internet … www.hillshomestead.com !!!

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 What are your bests of 2012??

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