Things that make my heart glad!

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.” 
~ Samuel Johnson, The Idler; Poems

 

The New Year is almost here! As part of my sacred promise to live a heart-centred year in 2014, I am aiming to make sure I fill my days with more of the simple things that make my heart glad.

Here’s my list, below.

1. The ever-changing light here at our farm: a brilliant blaze of sunrise, that quirky green haze before the afternoon storm, the dove-grey gloom of dusk. Taking a moment to stand barefoot on the ground and drink in my surroundings is good medicine for my soul.

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2. A cup of tea – on my own, with my husband, or with friends. Tea is such a comforting brew, and there are so many flavours to choose from. There’s always one to suit my mood.

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3. Fresh flowers. These ones are from weeds and vegetables in my garden that have gone to seed. No matter, they still give me joy. There is loveliness everywhere once you start to look.

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4. The beach. Summer or winter, morning or evening or any time in between. Swims in the briny sea, lungfuls of good clean air, the tang of salt on the breeze, sun on my skin, sand between my toes.

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5. Meditation. I swear meditation has saved my life. I fall into its arms twice each day and it never fails to soothe me, restore me and connect me.

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6. Writing, and reading books. One of the great loves of my existence. To be able to sit at home, or at a favourite cafe, and let words tumble onto the page is a form of magic for me. So is reading a book and being transported to a whole new world for a while.2012-05-17 07.34.52

 

7. Fairies. Being able to sit quietly in nature and see who’s there, or talking with Sokli, my most favourite fairy of them all – that always makes my heart glad.

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8. Hanging out at the farm. Down by the river, watching the platypus. Cooking up treats in the kitchen. Communing with the cows. Exploring with Harry and Bert. Dancing in my gumboots. Listening to the birds. Searching for the noisy koalas. Chasing away the wallabies from my vegetable garden. Picking oranges in the orchard. It’s the little ordinary things that bring  a smile to my face. Truly, living here makes me feel so blessed.

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Life is a precious gift. This coming year I am going to fill it with the ordinary miracles of being alive. How about you? What things will you open your heart to in 2014? What makes your own heart glad?

Much love to you, Nicole xx

My Big Promotion

May Day Queen Being Crowned - 1937.  Image from University of Kentucky

May Day Queen Being Crowned – 1937. Image from University of Kentucky

“Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me.”
~ William Shakespeare

“A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in.”

~ Frederick The Great

 

Yes, it’s true. I have been promoted!

A position of great tradition and, dare I say it, possibility. The sort of opportunity that truly excites me…

I am the newly elected Branch Cookery Officer for the Bangalow CWA. (Country Women’s Association)

Image from zazzle

Image from zazzle

It’s a dream job. I get to host cooking days, organise our local part of the Land Cookery Competition, and showcase the fabulous recipes for which the CWA are famous.

I promise to blog some of these recipes for you in upcoming posts, as well as hints and tips to help you have success whether you are cooking at home, or for a competition. There’s a wealth of talent, wisdom and kitchen magic here in this organisation, and I’m keen to share it with you!

Well, back to the kitchen for me. We have a fundraising cake stall this Saturday, outside our rooms in the main street of Bangalow. Perhaps we’ll see you there! :)

Unpacking cakes for judging - Image from John Oxley Library

Unpacking cakes for judging – Image from John Oxley Library

 

Getting ready for a bumper harvest!

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“Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.”
~ Kent Nerburn

The picture at the top of the page is part of a stand of Bunya Pines along one of the fences at our farm. Each year the pines produce giant cones the size of a football or bigger, but the harvest varies from year to year. The last decent harvest we had was four years ago. Last year we had maybe six cones in total over the entire season, and the nuts inside were small and barely worth bothering about. Today I looked up and counted nearly sixty cones, and these were just the ones that I could see. 2013 is going to be a bumper crop. :)

It will still be a few months before they ripen and begin to fall, but already we are putting a management strategy in place. The trees provide a shady place for our cows, who like to use their dense lower limbs as shelter from sun and storms. But once the nuts start to fall they become a dangerous place to be. Being hit by a falling Bunya cone would not be dissimilar to being felled by a cannonball. So we’ll move the cattle to another paddock before the nuts are ready.

Byron bunyas

The Australian Aborigines used to have huge feasts around the Bunya season. Tribes would come from coastal, plains and mountain districts, put aside any differences, and spend time together harvesting and eating the rich nuts. The feasts were a time to build friendships, to trade and to organise marriages, alliances and ceremony.

Bunya nut factory

I think this year I’ll plan a feast of my own for Bunya season. There are so many cones and some of them will be heavy and full of nuts. The nuts can be roasted, boiled, fried or sprouted and they taste like a floury sweet chestnut with a hint of pine-nut. Absolutely delicious. They even make amazing pesto!

There’s a lot of work in harvesting, breaking and dehusking the nuts, and even more work in preparing them for cooking. It seems the perfect time to invite a bunch of bunya-nut-loving friends to come help with the harvest, and to share in the bounty.

And anyway, I love a house full of hungry people. It gives me an excuse to cook!

Bunya Nut Feast

The Magic of a Cup of Tea

cuppa

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” 
~ Mother Teresa

There are a few things that have helped me to feel human again in the past twenty-four hours after days of being wretchedly ill. Such simple things, but they nurtured me, body and soul:

  • a long hot shower, with neem oil soap made by a friend to soothe my burning, itchy skin
  • clean sheets; fresh and soft and smelling still of sunshine
  • clean pyjamas; old favourites – warm and comfortable
  • a cup of milky tea – after a few days of no food it was bliss to sip and savour
  • vegemite on toast – just a few bites, buttery and the vegemite not too thick
  • an open window, and a gentle breeze
  • lots and lots of sleep

The clean sheets and pyjamas were waiting for me after my shower.  The tea and toast followed after I was tucked up in bed again.

It’s the simple things, always the simple things, that bring comfort, a sense of safety, and the knowledge you are loved.

What simple things can you do for yourself, or a loved one today?  Everyone benefits from care and comfort.

Thanks for all your lovely well-wishes and messages of support. Am off to see my Lyme Doctor today. I’ll be back to normal blogging tomorrow.  Much love to you ♥ xx

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Easy Easter Treats to Make

“Easter tells us that life is to be interpreted not simply in terms of things but in terms of ideals.”  ~ Charles M. Crowe

Hooray.  After a huge 14 hours of sleep I have woken feeling revived, optimistic and ready to cook!  We have a CWA Fundraising Cake Stall in Bangalow tomorrow morning, and I am making some Easter treats to contribute.  If you’re down our way, holidaying in Byron Bay or heading off to Bluesfest, why not pop in and say hi?

I thought I’d share some of the recipes I’m making. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced cook – these recipes are EASY, tasty and lots of fun, and there’s plenty of ways to get the kids involved too.  Giving home-made treats at Easter is a lovely heart-felt gift.

Or of course you could just eat them all yourself!

Here’s my Best Coconut Ice Recipe - a creamy concoction with the perfect texture and flavour.  This has won me many prizes at our local and State Agricultural Shows!

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I’ll also be making Homemade Rocky Road which is a simple concoction of chocolate, jellies, marshmallows and nuts – all that is required is a little melting and stirring!

rocky road

You can’t have Easter without Marshmallow Treats – some pretty eggs for the kids, and a few batches of traditional marhsmallows for the grown ups.  This marshmallow recipe is gluten-free and perfect for people who also need dairy free and chocolate free. :)

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Or you could try your hand at a few batches of sinfully good and incredibly easy Five Minute Fudge, which really does take a mere five minutes to whip up, and probably less time to devour!

fudge

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I encourage you to give these recipes a try.  Hopefully some of them will become an Easter Tradition in your household too.

Much love to you, ♥ Nicole xx

Getting My Hands on My Inheritance!

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“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

In a quiet corner of an organic cafe somewhere in Brisbane yesterday, history was made.

My mother (that’s her hands in the top of the picture above – like me she’s quite camera shy!) finally lent me the precious Family Recipe Book. Several times she stated in front of my sister and I (quite loudly I might add…) that it was only a loan, to facilitate the idea she had for a post for my blog based upon the comfort to be had by making and eating slices.

And in the grandest of gestures she actually let me take the tatty old exercise book – stuffed full of hand-written recipes, magazine clippings and scribblings on the backs of envelopes – home to the farm with me so that I may transcribe the wisdoms within its pages into a book of my own.

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I was made to promise, PROMISE, that I wouldn’t share some of the most secret recipes with you, my Bloggerverse friends. And I wouldn’t, Mum, honest.  Not with my grandmother peering down from Heaven in her imperious way. Goodness, some things – like the Heavenly Tart Recipe – are sacred.

But I am excited.  There is so much good stuff between the pages of this book that I’ve grown up with and added to over the past few decades.  My family history, and my inheritance, is the stories and recipes and memories contained here.

I look forward to sharing some of my family’s legacy with you.  And I’ll start later this week with a post dedicated to Slices, for my Mum, whose idea it was.  Just so we are clear about that…

It was Mum’s idea!  Did everyone get that? Good.

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Coconut, Ginger and Cardamom Rice Pudding Recipe – Vegan

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Because my Power Word for 2013 is HEALTH, I’ve been modifying a few of my favourite recipes.

This creamy-sweet rice pudding has the added lusciousness of Indian spices, and is entirely dairy, gluten and cane-sugar free.  And it’s vegan to boot, for those of you who are lovers of plant-based diets.

It can be eaten warm or chilled, so it’s perfect for any time of the year.

Ingredients: 1 x 400ml can of coconut cream, 1/2 cup of rice of your choice, 12 green cardamon pods, an inch of freshly grated or finely chopped ginger root, 1/3 cup of palm sugar, raw honey or maple syrup (or to taste), pinch of salt.

Method:

Using a mortar and pestle, lightly crush the cardamom pods. You could also do this with the blade of a heavy knife. This releases the aromatic oils from the tiny seeds inside the pods.  If you are especially finicky you can pull out all the green pods, leaving just the seeds, but I never bother.  They soften up when you cook them, so you can either eat them or dig them out later.

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Tip your can of coconut cream into a large saucepan, and then use the empty can and add one and a half cans of water to the pot.

Grate your ginger and add the ginger and crushed cardamom to the pot, then bring to the boil.  Now slowly sprinkle in your rice, stirring well.  Let it boil for a minute or two and then bring your pot down to a slow simmer.  Stir every so often so it doesn’t stick on the bottom. It will take about 40 to 60 minutes for your pudding to cook, depending on how low you have your heat. (Add a little more water if needed.) Test the rice – if it is soft, and the mixture is thick and creamy, it is ready.

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Add in your sweetener, checking as you go, so you don’t add in too much. Then add a pinch of good salt and check that you are happy with the taste.

There is nothing more to be done except eat and enjoy!

Some of my favourite serving options include a spoonful of creamy coconut yogurt  (you can often find this in health food stores) over the top, and a little seasonal fruit.

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For a special occasion, layer it into a glass with some fresh or preserved fruit and a good yogurt, and top with some crushed pistachio or toasted crushed cashew nuts.

If you liked this recipe, you might want to try my:

Mandarin and Coconut Jelly Recipe

Healthy Breakfast Parfait Recipe

Here’s a sneak preview of the Breakfast Parfait, which you can use to inspire you about serving suggestions with your Coconut, Ginger and Cardamom Rice Pudding…

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Happy Birthday, Mum!

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It’s my mum’s birthday today. I can’t pop in and see her, take her flowers or make her a cake because she’s visiting with my brother down in Tasmania. (And yes, they are all safe from the fires, thank you!)

So instead I thought I’d take a moment to say thank you to my mum for some of the ways she has enriched my life.

Thank you mum for teaching me manners, and helping me understand that the feelings of others are important.  Thank you for teaching me to be considerate and compassionate.

Thank you for letting me follow you around the kitchen, for fostering my love of cooking, and for letting me make dinner – even when I did use every herb and condiment, and every pot and pan just to make one very strange-tasting dish.

Thanks for letting us spend so much time with our grandparents.  I am only now appreciating what a gift that is in my life.

Thank you for all the sacrifices you made to make sure we got a good education.

Thank you for teaching me that we should celebrate the important occasions in our lives.  In honour of this last one, here’s cake.  (BTW – You were the one who taught me how to make the chocolate leaves…)

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I hope you get to indulge in some fabulous tasty treats today. I love you.  {{{HUGS}}}

Happy Birthday Mum!

And if any of you would like to make this delicious Celebration Chocolate Mud Cake for yourself, my easy-to-follow recipe is here:

Celebration Chocolate Mud Cake Recipe

PS Don’t feel you have to wait for a special occasion to make this, because there is always something to celebrate in life!

What Real Food Looks Like…

On Saturday morning at the crack of dawn my husband and I went into Lismore, a small country town about 25 minutes drive from our farm.  We needed to buy some hay for our weaner calves, and there was a truckload of bales for sale at the showgrounds, which is also home to the Lismore Organic Farmers’ Market each Saturday. Ben reminded me that we couldn’t stay long – we had a house full of visitors and a full day of farm work to be done!

So we only went to buy hay…

but of course I was no help loading it all with two perfectly capable, strong men at the ready, so I snuck over the market for a little bit of a look-see.  The first thing I spied was just-picked broccoli, and of course I had to put a little bit of that in my basket.

Then I helped myself to some plump red beetroot and a big bunch of rhubarb.

The ute was still only half loaded, so I crammed some assorted greens and herbs into my basket as well!

And what’s the point of greens without a tomato or two?

The ute was finally loaded but then we had to stay a little longer to have a coffee and a chat with some friends we’d bumped into. In the process I acquired a bag of  limes, an armful of pink lady apples, and some excellent lady finger bananas.

On the drive home I planned out a menu for Saturday night’s dinner, based on my haul, and here it is:

Vegan Broccoli, Cashew and Lime Soup with crusty fresh bread. (I’ll be blogging this recipe for the Vegan Virtual Potluck on November 1!)

Red Wine and Garlic Marinated Steaks with a Rustic Salad – our own organic beef, grilled and served with the simplest of salads.  (The cheese is local too – Newrybar semi-hard from the Bangalow Cheese Company.)

Rhubarb Cream Puffs – squares of puff pastry stuffed with an apple-and-rhubarb compote and fresh cream from the farm down the road.

Twenty minutes of preparation when we got home (we were home by 8.30am!) and I had a delicious three course meal ready for the finishing touches that night.  Food miles – negligable. The only ingredient that wasn’t local was the pastry. And almost every ingredient had been harvested within the last 24 hours or less.

Off we went to work…

Come dinner time we were all starving after a full but satisfying day working in the river paddock, clearing regrowth and rebuilding an old rock wall.  Thank goodness meal prep was nearly done. While Ben lit the barbeque I heated soup and threw dessert together. Easy! Let me know if you want me to blog any of the recipes; this food is so simple, and it tasted like heaven. Good fresh food never takes much fancy-ing up.

Luckily we had a little rhubarb compote and cream left over, which I used on top of home-made date and ginger scones for afternoon tea the next day.  Farm life is such a chore – but my willing workers just seem to keep coming back.  Maybe it’s the good clean air, maybe it’s Ben’s singing, or maybe, just maybe, it’s the food…

Roast Carrot and Pine Nut Salad

This is a delicious salad that can fill you up on its own, or that makes a beautiful side for other dishes.  I’ve made this with baked carrots, but you could also use baked parsnip or sweet potato for equally tasty results.

Hint:  If you are prone to nibbling on the baked vegetables prior to serving, double the quantity – or at least cook a few extra as chef snacks…

Salad Ingredients:

4 cups of mixed leaves (today I’ve used rocket, mustard greens and baby spinach because that’s what was in my garden), a handful of chopped spring onion/green shallots, 2 large tomatoes chopped into wedges (or use a handful or two of cherry tomatoes), 1/2 a red salad onion sliced into fine rings, 6 to 8 largish carrots , 2 heaped tablespoons of pinenuts

Chop the carrots into batons or wedges, coat lightly with olive or coconut oil and bake in a moderate oven for around 30 mins or until cooked to your liking.

Toast the pinenuts in a dry frypan over medium heat for one to two minutes until they are light to golden brown.  Watch them carefully as they can burn easily!

Lemon Dressing

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup virgin cold pressed olive oil, generous pinch of salt, generous pinch of raw sugar, 1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger or 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root.  Place in jar, add  lid and shake like crazy until emulsified.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Pour over salad just before serving.

If you’re looking for a higher protein content, add some fetta cheese, or some grilled haloumi (my absolute favourite with this salad!)

The salad can be served warm, with the carrots straight out of the oven, or as a cold dish once your baked vegetables have cooled.  This transports really well for picnics and other adventures too.  Enjoy!