Friday 26 February 2016

Cook The Books - February

Gosh it is almost the end of February, so that means my first Cook the Books month has finished. Here's a round up of the new recipes I tried, what were hits and what were misses.

Week 1.
I made the most of not being at work and made two new dishes.  Both were from the Annabel Langbein 2015 Summer Annual.
  • Beetroot and Carrot Tabbouleh, using beetroot and herbs from vegetable garden
  • Plum Sorbet - I was given a large bag of plums, and with the hot weather we  had been having, this was the perfect recipe.
Verdict: Definitely make again dishes, especially the sorbet,we have already been thinking of different seasonal fruits and flavours we could try.

Week 2
A couple of years ago, Mr J had tried spiced chick peas somewhere and liked them.  Lately he has been asking me to make some.  Luckily for him, I came across a recipe for Spiced, Toasted Chick Peas in Sarah Raven's Food for Friends and Family, and thought I'd try to recreate them for him.

Verdict: They're good,  and I'd make them again, but perhaps they need a little more paprika or the addition of crushed chili flakes for a little more zing.

Week 3
I like coleslaw as a change from salads in summer.   Apple and Poppy Seed Coleslaw from The Revive Cafe Cookbook 3,  sounded particularly good, as well as helping  use up some of the cabbage and older apples in my fridge.

Verdict: A different type of coleslaw, because it doesn't have a creamy mayonnaise mixed through it.  Tangy and refreshing,  and yes, I am allowed to make it again sometime.

Week 4
This year I have a great crop of basil and a poor crop of tomatoes.  Murphy's Law I guess,  In an effort to use up some of it, and because we don't eat a lot of pesto, I decided to make Basil Hummus, a recipe in The Revive Cafe Cookbook  3.

Verdict: I was disappointed that my Basil Hummus wasn't the same fresh pretty green as in the photograph in the book.  Taste and texture was good, and should I make it again, I would halve the quantity.

Overall it hasn't been too hard cooking new recipes.  Most ingredients I have had on hand.  I am finding I do need to spend some time going thought my cook books and marking the pages with different coloured sticky tabs, so I know where to find the recipes when I want them each week.  A little bit of meal planning is happening too now, which I guess isn't a bad thing.  Now lets see what I end up cooking in March.

Sunday 21 February 2016


Photo from Janine
  • Sewing:  the butterfly pouch is done, now I just need to get a few more goodies, and it's ready to post off to Australia
  • Eating - homemade caramel ice cream.  Absolutely delicious and such a shame I have to share it with my family.
  • Gardening:  probably more maintenance than gardening.  My Star Jasmine had grown somewhat out of control with all the warm humid weather.  Two hours later, three full wheel barrows of trimmings, and a couple of blisters on my hands, I have a lovely tidy jasmine garden again.
  • A proud big sister moment:  unfortunately this AMH Irish Chain Quilt isn't my work.  My sister, Janine gets to take all the credit for this beauty.  Mine is still in the planning, lets accumulate more AMH fabric stage, but this is inspiring me to get my other must do projects completed so I can start on mine.  Janine used the tutorial from here, but made it a couple of rows bigger. (She really needs a blog of her own to show off her beautiful work)
Wishing you all a fabulous week ahead.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Scenes from my Week

From the work in progress pile
  • Some hand quilting on the sampler quilt - this is my slow project - far too hot to sit  for hours doing this, so just a little quilting every other night, with all the doors open.
From the vegetable garden
  • Tigerella tomatoes - after the disappointing crop of cherry tomatoes my vegetable garden produced, I am pleased to be getting some decent pickings of this plant.  It is a race between me and the birds some days to get to them.  Other success ful crops were my Lebanese cucumbers, lettuce , corn and my chili plant.  My passionfruit which was so prolifically laden with fruit, seems to have a disease and is dropping them before they have ripened. Such a disappointing sight.
From the book pile
  • I gave up on the  two books I was reading when I last posted.  Unfortunately I wasn't enjoying them, and I have decided that life is too short to  keep trying to read books I am not enjoying. This is my latest read, I enjoyed her previous book, so fingers crossed this one is good too.
From the fabric stash
  • a few new additions , some Anna Maria Horner, Carolyn Friedlander and an Amy Sinibaldi text.
What has been happening in your week?

Monday 8 February 2016


  • Listening to London Grammar and Leon Bridges while sewing.  Tiny Happy has a great list of music recommendation on this post and I have been having fun listening to, new to me music.
  • Sewing - another little butterfly - these are going to be used in a pouch for an upcoming birthday
  • Reading:  Life After Life  by Kate Atkinson, is what I have been  trying to read this week, I must confess that I am finding it a little confusing with all the  turn backs in time, and am not sure if I am really enjoying it. The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas turned up for me at the library on Friday, and yes, I started it, ( I am sure other people have two books on the go at the same time)
  • Basting  and quilting -  the backing for my Scrappy Sampler Quilt has been made, so Saturday saw me crawling round on the floor, spray and pin basting.  Now on to the quilting, I have made a start on this, doing my usual, somewhat organic straight lines.
  • Cooking -  beetroot and lemon chutney, I have to start using up the beetroot now from the vegetable garden.  Guess that means Chocolate Beetroot cake and brownies over the next couple of weeks too.
  • A little visitor, discovered quite accidentally in my Star Jasmine. This is a green and gold bell frog, a species introduced to New Zealand.

I am making the most of my last day of the long weekend, and relaxing.  Summer holidays are officially over, life is back to  usual  this week - work for me, school for Miss B and Mr J.  It's going to be hard to get back into that morning rush routine.  Have a wonderful week.

Friday 5 February 2016

Scenes from my Week

From the garden:
  • I'm not the only one enjoying my zinnias - they are attracting lots of monarch butterflies too
  • Scadoxus - Katherine Wheel/Fireball - four flower heads this year.
From the sewing room:
  • a small project in progress, because I am procrastinating over making a quilt back - pattern from here
  • after my holiday hand sewing session, I have one more cartwheel to finish, then this can be turned into a pillow.
From the kitchen:
  • vegetables and herbs prepped for my first Cook the Books recipe challenge
  • plums being stoned and chopped for a new summer dessert recipe too 
Wishing you all a fabulous weekend.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

The Redwoods

We took a day trip to Rotorua while we were away.  One of the attractions we visited was The Redwoods - Whakarewarewa Forest.  This grove of Californian Redwoods was planted in 1901.  It was quite a different type of forest to experience walking though, compared to the New Zealand bush I am used too.  Not really a lot of undergroth, dappled light coming though and just really tall straight tree trunks wherever you looked.  Very calm and peaceful, and beautifully cool after being in the sun. We did the Redwood Grove Memorial Walk, which is 2.0 km long and dedicated to the men of the New Zealand Forest Service who lost their lives in the two World Wars. Lots of walking, hiking and mountain biking trails run through this forest too, as well as a treetops boardwalk,  which Miss B and Mr J, had walked on earlier in the holidays with my parents.

Hopefully we will go back one day and explore one of the longer trails.

Monday 1 February 2016

Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids

Huka Falls - looking south

Huka Falls - looking North

Looking out to Wairakei Thermal Power Station (R) and the Huka Park Activity Centre (L)

Aratiatia Dam and Rapids  - before the gates are lifted

Aratiatia Dam and Rapids - starting to fill

Aratiatia Rapids

View in front of look out point - before

View in front of the lookout point - filling
Well I am back from holiday, somewhat relaxed and rested.  We had the most glorious weather, in some cases almost too hot, but were able to get out and hike and play with the kayaks, and spend some days doing nothing but reading, and playing boardgames in the shade.

The hiking part of my holiday occurred on our second day away.  We decided to walk the Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids, both two of my favourite places to visit when I am in Taupo, the only difference is that we usually drive to them.  In reality this is an easy 7 km (4.35 miles) walk - one way, we decided to make it a return trip,  Starting at the beautiful Huka Falls, we walked through native bush, then followed a track following the Waikato River, not next to it mind you, inland and about 5km of it was in open flat land, hardly a tree in sight for shade, which made it very difficult on the return trip, as it was one of the hottest days this summer.  Needless to say we were very pleased to get to the shaded bush area at Huka Falls upon completion of our activities.

The Aratiatia Rapids were once a natural feature on the Waikato River, however once the Aratiatia Dam was built the flow was stopped.  Three or four times a day, depending on the time of year, the dam gates are opened to release the  water pressure, in doing so they recreate the famous rapids.  As this happens the Waikato River falls 28m in the space of 1 km.  We saw the empty gorge fill and the water flowed out the gates and down the narrow gorge.

Both the Huka Falls and Aratitatia Rapids are well worth a visit at any time of the year.