Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Zaratmustra's Art History Lesson

It is a well known fact that I love art and cats, combine the two and it looks something like this....

I know, it's a bit silly but fun.  

If you are one of those people who think Art History is boring, this could change your mind.

If you are currently studying art, this could help you remember some of those illusive art works.

If you already love art, then you will enjoy playing 'Name That Masterpiece'.

If you love cats, well what more can I say!  


Monday, 19 May 2014

Pink Potato Salad for Lunch

I know this probably going to freak some people out but stick with me here. I am not good at making meals for myself, so when lunch time came today I didn't have a plan of action.  I opened the refrigerator door and stood there wondering what I could make out of a hard boiled egg, a jar of sweet pickled beet root, and mayonnaise.   This is what happened... PINK POTATO SALAD!

It was really very good...very PINK... but VERY good!  I can see this being a big hit with 'Ladies Who Lunch'  Are you brave enough to have a go?  Here's what I did to make a greedy sized portion for just me...

Remember beetroot is powerful stuff so take care not to splash the juice around and use a glass or ceramic bowl for mixing.  If you use plastic it may become permanently pink.

1 or 2 boiled potatoes - peel and cut into cubes
1 hard boiled egg - finely diced, I used only the white part 
Several slices of sweet pickled beet root - finely diced
1 or 2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise  or salad cream
Chive flowers - optional but so delicious

Place the potato, egg, and pickled beetroot into a bowl.  Add a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise and a few drops of the pickling juice.  Stir gently to mix and coat all of the ingredients in the dressing.  Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

When you are ready to serve,  tear the petals off of several chive flowers and sprinkle over the potato salad.  They add a delicious hint of onion and have a lovely texture.   Give it a go.. I dare you!  

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Wordless Wednesday Recipe - Homemade Vanilla Extract

I thought I'd do something different for Almost Wordless Wednesday, so here goes...

It's a recipe for Home Made Vanilla Extract..

I split the vanilla pods in half before pouring over the vodka, but you can cut them into pieces if you like.  

Monday, 12 May 2014

A Tail Tale

The Dust Bunny has the most beautiful tail.  It is one of the finest tails I've ever seen on a little cat, covered in very long, thick, shiny, black fur and... 

Leaves, twigs, seeds, and sunflower shells!

He reminds me of Pig-Pen, from the old Charlie Brown cartoons.   Charming as he is, he frequently travels in a cloud of dust and debris.

I don't think he wants to be a 'Pig-Pen'.  He is constantly grooming and cleaning. 

He tries to keep the mud off his paws ....

And he works very hard to keep the twigs out of his tummy fur.

It must be terrible to have to use your tongue as a flannel.  No wonder he looks so untidy sometimes.

But he cleans and cleans until finally....

He looks very handsome.

You'd never know what a mess he'd been if it wasn't for the trail of garden detritus!  

Friday, 9 May 2014

Mr. Bumble's Bum

I noticed something rather lovely in the garden this evening.  There is a small clutch of blue bearded iris in bloom and below them are a couple of small ceanothus plants EXACTLY the same colour!

I don't know why this surprised me.  I planted them, but you forget from one spring to the next, well I do.  So every year it's a pleasant surprise to see what blooms in the garden.

Take this delicate peach azalea, for example.  This year it is putting on the best show ever. 

Standing near it you begin to realise it seems to be humming.... buzzing actually. 

Then you see why.  Unfortunately, I only managed to get a photo of Mr. Bumble's bum.   

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Chocolate and Pear Muffins

You never know what will spark an idea, in this case it was a tin of pears tucked in the corner of the pantry.  I'd bought them to make Nigella's Pear and Chocolate Pudding but I never got 'round to doing it.  

I'd eaten half of the canned pears when I had that 'light bulb' moment, why not try making some chocolate and pear muffins?   So this is what I did:

Heat the oven to 200C/400F.   Place 10 paper muffin liners into a muffin tin and set to one side.  

Sift the following ingredients into a large mixing bowl:

250 grams flour
175 grams caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder

Stir the dry ingredients together until they are well combined. 

In another bowl or large mixing jug, beat together the following 'wet' ingredients:

1 large egg
100 ml vegetable oil 
250 ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  

Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring until they are JUST about combined. 

Cut 3 canned pear halves into small cubes and gently fold them into the muffin batter. 

Divide the batter equally among the 10 muffin liners and bake for about 20 minutes.  Check the muffins after 15 minutes to make sure you don't over bake them. 

Write 'canned pears' on your shopping list so you can try Nigella's Pear and Chocolate Pudding recipe as you munch on a warm muffin and drink a cup of tea.  

Friday, 2 May 2014

May Day Blossoms

When I was a little girl we always made May Day baskets filled with flowers to give to friends and neighbours.  I seem to remember it had something to do with the ancient celebration of the goddess Flora. 

I don't think children do this any more.  I can't remember when I last saw a May Day basket or where.  

An early evening wander around the garden brought back those childhood memories of May Day flowers.

I know I am a day late... sorry.

I am a bit slow, like this little fellow.

Let's just pretend it's still May Day and I still have time to leave a posy on your door step. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Waste Not Want Not or Caramel Apple and Oat Bars

One third of a jar of caramel sauce, two less than perfect apples, some oats and a bit of luck.  That's the basic recipe for today's baking project, Caramel Apple and Oat Bars.

As you know, I have a serious aversion to wasting food, especially something as delicious as caramel sauce.  I had to find a recipe that would use the two remaining apples in the fruit bowl and the last bit of caramel sauce in the fridge. 

It didn't take long for me to find this recipe from Betty Crocker  which looks delicious.  There was only one problem, I didn't have all the ingredients so I took inspiration and some measurements from Betty and came up with a slightly more 'flapjack' version:

130 grams plain flour
100 grams oats
125 grams soft brown sugar
80 grams butter - room temperature
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2 medium apples - peeled, cored and finely diced
6 Tablespoons prepared caramel sauce

Heat the oven to 200C/400F.  Line a square baking pan with baking paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar.  Add the flour, oats, salt, and baking soda.  Stir well to combine the ingredients.  Reserve one cup of the oat mixture to use as topping.   Press the rest of the oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, making a 'crust' layer.

Toss the diced apples together with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of flour.  Spread the apples over the base layer.

Spoon 4-5 Tablespoons of caramel sauce over the apples, spreading the caramel evenly over the apples.  Sprinkle over the remaining oat mixture and gently press mixture down onto the apple-caramel layer. 

Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes or until the topping it is lightly browned and the apples have softened.

Cut into serving size squares and drizzle over the remaining caramel sauce. Perhaps we should have these warm with that last little bit of vanilla ice cream in the freezer.... waste not want not!