Chickpea. Neither chick nor pea. Discuss.

I’ll spare you the usual apologies for length between posts, but I will give you the sad update on my garden – neglect has finally claimed most of it, alas!!

With the exception of the daffodils, who continue to defy the odds by springing cheerily from the ashes on an annual basis, and the society garlic and passion fruit vine, which both appear to be doing well despite no intervention from me, the rest of the garden is in a sorry state. I think I will have to abandon the yearly attempts at blueberries, due to the inconsistent weather beating the poor little buds off the stems before they can even create the berries!! And my forgetting to water the avocado plant (and not noticing how much sun we were having) appears to have had a terminal effect on it 😦

I believe that having a more accessible garden will yield better gardening results, so am hopeful that the next place we live in will have such a garden, and that my future gardening reports will be more positive!!

That’s the growing – on the cooking and freezing front, the slow cooker really came into its own during winter, with chicken, lamb and beef turning into wonderful meals with minimal intervention – there’s something very satisfying about putting everything in a pot before you head off to work, then having an enticing aroma greet you when you return!! We would then eat the results for multiple meals, on pasta, couscous, in pies, in tortillas – very versatile!!

Abby, in the way of toddlers, sometimes likes our food, sometimes rejects it out of hand, so I continue to make meals for her and freeze them so there’s always something healthy on hand for her.  She is a big fan of spaghetti bolognese, and I have found that our recipe, with the addition of a number of extra veggies food processed into it, can pass muster for us all, so I make up a big batch, with zucchini, carrots, broccoli, spinach and whatever else is lying around in the mix with the mince, and we all enjoy it!! I crossed the line by adding bok choy to one batch, however – it gave it an odd taste, so I’m sticking to mediterranean veggies from now on! My pro tip for freezing meals for toddlers? Freeze the leftover rice or pasta in with the meal itself, so it’s all ready to go when you want it – you’d be amazed how well it defrosts, and you have a complete and balanced meal!

She is a great little eater, liking fruit and veggies by themselves as much as in curries, bolognese and the ever-popular frittata, so we are very lucky – our only complaint is that she isn’t a big fan of chips or nuggets, so when we eat out, we have to ensure that there are other options, ie if we order her schnitzel, mash and peas, she is likely to only eat the peas!

She has also been known to eat broccoli and zucchini raw, and there was an enjoyable dinnertime where she repeatedly called for ‘more broccoli’ – not something you usually hear from a toddler, I’m sure – we know we’re very lucky!!

Her favourite snack/addition to a meal is chickpeas. For a few months earlier in the year, she demanded chickpeas for every meal, even breakfast!! I only complied for dinner, creating a mix of chickpeas, veggies, garlic, veggie stock and canned tomatoes, which she very much enjoyed. After a break of a couple of months, the chickpeas are back in favour – she’ll eat them straight, (ie drained and rinsed from the can), and likes them added to other meals – I actually have to put limits on how many she can eat at one sitting, as surely too many can’t be good for the digestion!

I know, I know, parents reading this will want to kill us – don’t worry, we do know how lucky we are, and try to appreciate it while it lasts!

I also tried some creative chickpea cooking – the results were a bit crumbly, but still eminently edible, although I enjoyed them more than Abby did, she’s a purist, just wants the chickpeas by themselves!! The recipe for these cookies is from One Handed Cooks (, who I heartily recommend for all food baby and toddler!


So I will leave you with a picture of Abby eating – I can’t believe she is already two!!


Her fork handling skills are quite good, and she can drink from a cup without too many spills, so she’s really growing up! She’s very chatty, loves talking and singing and all music, and has varied interests ranging from the garbage trucks to her dolls to the Mickey Mouse club!

I think in the absence of any successful gardening adventures, I might use her as the ‘grow’ part of the blog for a while!!



An ode to fritatta

Hello all! Yes, it’s been a while between posts – I think I might have been overly ambitious thinking I’d have lots of time to post with a young one! A’s in a pretty good routine, we’re still doing 2 naps a day, although sometimes it’s more one morning nap then an afternoon ‘rest’ but not nap – she’s probably transitioning to one nap, but we still find her morning nap good for all of us, and enjoy our lunch outings, so we won’t transition just yet! 

But we are all in transition – I’ve just started a new job, J’s just started his PhD, and A has just started daycare 2 days a week, so lots of big changes for us this year! The rambling about nap time relates to how much time I actually have – she’s on the go most of the day, requiring supervision and/or interaction, especially in the crawling to walking transition, so I find I only have time in her nap time, when I’m often napping myself, showering, or cooking, so blogging has fallen to the wayside!

The garden alas hasn’t changed much – the random weather has not been great for planting, or my existing plants, like my poor blueberries – turns out blueberries are not self-pollinating, in that they need two plants to pollinating each other, so I’ve now got two, but sadly the storms trashed my original plant, and the new one has only produced a few little berries – as usual, holding out great hope for next year! I think the location of the garden and the hardness of the stones  makes it hard for me to remember and be inspired by it at the moment – my rosemary died again! But the mint is happy, as is the society garlic, so I’ll get some more herbs going again, and leave the more intense gardening for a while.

However, the baby food cooking and freezing definitely continues! I still make a fruit purée to mix in with natural yogurt, Weetbix and milk for A’s breakfast, although sometimes she has overnight oats, sometimes pancakes if I’m in the mood! So breakfasts are pretty standard and easy, cos we’re all half asleep!

As she is a big fan of finger food, and I’m a big fan of being able to eat as well, I like an easy lunch option that I can make in big batches, freeze, then easily defrost and have it ready to go. Enter the frittata! I was not a big fan of frittata as a youngster, and I can’t say that I love it now, it’s a bit too eggy for me. However, it is the perfect way to get lots of veggies into a toddler with miminal effort! Here’s how:

  1. Process/grate whatever veggies you have – I use to grate, now I save time and energy by using my little hand held processor, it would be even better with a bigger one! Any veggies will work – I usually have 4-5 in there, like baby spinach, zucchini, carrot, kumera, capsicum, broccoli, kale – whatever you want to use up!

    Grated veggies pre mixing!


    Defrosted serving of frittat ready to be devoured!

  2. In a different bowl, beat together 4-5 eggs – I’m sure you could use the non-egg  substitute if there are allergies.
  3. Then add 1-1/2 cups of flour to the eggs and beat well –  it depends how much veggie you have and how wet it seems, the flour will bind it together, so add  more if needed.
  4. Then add 1 cup of grated cheese and the veggies, mix together, pour into a baking tray, flatten down and bake for around 30-35 mins at 180 degrees.
  5. Voila! Once it cools a bit, I cut it into little squares suitable for toddler hands, then divide it into portions and freeze them, so there are plenty ready to go! I find it makes around 12-15 serves!


So that’s our lunch staple – I usually add some cucumber, some bread with avocado or peanut butter, a cheese stick and some fruit, and little miss is very happy!

And she can feed herself the frittata, so I can eat too! Win win all round! I’m still enjoying sneaking veggies into things, although I will also  need to keep encouraging her to eat them in their natural state as we go on!


Oh yeah, love that fritatta!

For auld lang syne

So, another year comes to a close. I started this year by starting this blog, because I wanted a new hobby, a creative outlet and a way of discussing and sharing my other hobbies with other like-minded people.

The first half of the year went well with my garden, my cooking, my freezing and my blogging. The second half of the year, not so much on all fronts.

However, I am ok with that, as the reason for all of that is my gorgeous daughter. That was also a goal of 2014, one which I am very happy we were able to achieve with minimum fuss (well, the pregnancy bit, anyway, life with a newborn is maximum fuss!)

Now our bub is 11 weeks old, and we are starting to feel a little bit more like parents, understanding her a bit more, and enjoying her developing personality with her smiles and cute noises. My long-neglected garden finally got a backyard blitz yesterday, as the cat naps Abby likes to take during the day don’t leave much time for the type of cultivation (and weed removal!) required. With the generous babysitting of grandparents, Jon and I were able to fix the garden back up, remove all the weeds and dead plants, and make it feel like a nice place again! Before and after shots below.

Having a baby has taught me patience, to embrace the chaos, and that sometimes you need to press pause on things, change your goals, and that’s ok. My garden has not had my attention, and that, combined with some crazy weather (heat followed by storms followed by cold followed by storms followed by heat) has led to the sad demise of plants such as my broad beans, who grew beautifully, then succumbed to Robert Downey mildew before we could harvest enough for a meal – specimens below.

I also haven’t been able to cook or blog much, partly because of lack of time, partly because of lack of energy while I processed this massive change! But again, that’s ok! Life is what happens when you’re making other plans!

New Year’s resolutions? I will keep blogging, and will return to my gardening and cooking, but with the understanding that having these activities forcibly scaled back by another amazing creation is definitely worth it! I’ll try not to become too much baby blog, but will share some highlights (or poo stories, if you want those, we’ve got plenty!)

The garden is surviving well – new tomato plants are thriving, as are strawberries – from a pre-bought plant rather than seed, something which again is ok as cultivating from seeds was a bit beyond me over the past few months! I planted some zucchini and kale yesterday, so we’ll see how we go! Some herbs are on the cards for the new year, maybe some lettuce – I am scaling back my plans to focus on things we will eat and that are low maintenance for the time being, so I feel less guilty about not being able to focus so much on the garden!

And cooking will also return, I need to make more snacks for me that are less sugary (breastfeeding makes me starving and a sugar monster!) and have more nutrition, and as the little one calms down more in the early evening, fancier meals will return! But again, the change is good, and it’s all about short-term adaptation for long-term gain.

So Happy New Year, thanks for sharing 2014 with me, and being understanding, and I look forward to more adventures in 2015!











Growing, cooking and freezing of a different kind

There has been a long delay between posts, and while there are multiple reasons, I think the longer I left it, the more epic I thought the next post needed to be, which makes it harder to start again! So, here is the small post that will restart me on regular posts again, sorry!

As you know, I’ve been growing a different kind of plant, a baby-shaped one! To stretch the metaphor, the baby was growing and cooking for most of this year, and the last few weeks of pregnancy really made it hard for me to cook or garden, as bending down or lifting things became a real challenge, with a large watermelon blocking my movements!

Our gorgeous baby girl Abigail was born in mid October, and I must admit, my life has been a bit on freeze since then, as dealing with a newborn, however cute she is, has been quite the shock to my system and way of life. I think I naively assumed that while the baby would impact on what I do, that I would be able to return to normal programming fairly quickly, because all babies do is sleep, right? Well, they do that, sometimes, when it suits them, but they also feed a lot, and as I’m breastfeeding, and recovering from a C section (little bub was breech for quite a few months, so no way of dislodging her otherwise!), it’s all quite tiring and overwhelming. I know that the first few weeks are tough, everyone says it, everyone’s been through it, but it is quite another thing to actually go through it yourself.

So my garden is definitely suffering, it’s getting watered, but not much else, ie weeding and staking have fallen by the wayside, because again, bending is a challenge! In terms of cooking, we prepped a few things before the birth, such as spaghetti sauce, burrito mix, soup and some snacks, a recipe for one of which I will share in the coming weeks, and froze them, so that’s been quite handy, as being tired and then thinking about cooking isn’t high on the list!

Once things settle down a bit, I will do some more posts about my poor garden (some storms and heat have not been kind) and some cooking I’m doing, and will probably reflect a fair bit of motherhood as well, because I hear that no-one has ever blogged about that before! 😉

To leave you with a couple of photos of the angel (when she’s not being a demonic crying monster!)



Recent eats and garden update

Hello my lovelies,

I will get around to posting about my peanuts, once I get around to eating them – when you only produce a handful of them, you want to savour them appropriately! I’ve also realised that I don’t necessarily need to wait for something big to update you on, I can also do some more random updates on the bits and pieces going on in my life – let me know if you’re happy to read those as well, or what you would prefer!

However, despite my extreme laziness in the garden of late, there are developments to share with you! I have found that one of my tomato plants is currently defying the laws of nature and gravity, which I always like to commend! I’m of the ‘perhaps if I leave that almost dead looking plant for a few weeks/months something interesting might happen’ school of gardening, as you never know when a plant might suddenly spring back to life – my herbs frequently do this! So at the end of the tomato season a few months ago, I did pull out some obviously dead plants, but left this one because there were still a few green shoots. Recently, I noticed that while the bottom of the plant appears dead, the top of the plant hasn’t noticed, and is blithely growing flowers for new tomatoes, even though it’s on a very odd angle! This is why I love nature!! We’ll see how these tomatoes go …

See, the base of the plant appears dead, however new life continues to spring!

See, the base of the plant appears dead, however new life continues to spring!

A closer look at the impressive tomato flowers, defying the odds!

A closer look at the impressive tomato flowers, defying the odds!

Also, my pea plants are going well, growing up tall and hopefully will have pea pods to show you soon, but here is the plant in the meantime:

Pea plants in progress

Pea plants in progress

I also overcame my laziness (I blame a combo of questionable weather, general busyness and the fact that my increasing baby bump makes it harder to lean over!) in my winter planting yesterday. My compost has actually been going wonderfully well – full of worms, which I take to be a good sign of decomposition and general compost health!! So, yesterday I planted some more tomatoes, some broad beans, some English spinach, and some red cabbage – I still don’t know why the red cabbage didn’t grow at all a few months ago, so if that happens again, I’d say it’s the seeds, but we’ll see how these new crops go!

In food news, I have been enjoying my EasiYo yogurt so very much for breakfasts! In my usual porridge, on muesli in the warmer weather we had last week, as an afternoon snack, and on the weekend, I made myself a lovely plate of French toast, served with homemade yogurt, defrosted berries and maple syrup – it looks like a cafe meal, if I do say so myself!!

Cafe-ready French toast!

Cafe-ready French toast!

And last week I made an experimental salad that turned out wonderfully well – I poached some chicken thighs in some society garlic, peppercorns and parley, cooked some quinoa in chicken stock, roasted some pumpkin, and then all combined these with some rocket, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and homemade beetroot relish (which is awesome, by the way – canned or fresh beetroot, diced, with 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, bring to the boil then simmer until it’s nice and relishy looking and tastes tart but not too strong – it keeps in the fridge for ages and I add it to everything!) All the flavours went so well together, it was super yummy – apologies for slightly blurry photo, I will endeavour to stop taking photos like a guerilla and actually take time to take them properly!! And the good thing about poaching the chicken was that it created plenty of stock for me to freeze for future soups and stews!

Awesome chicken and quinoa salad!

Awesome chicken and quinoa salad!

So, that’s what’s been happening in my growing, cooking and freezing world of late!

The various wonders of quinoa

Now, I know what some of you are thinking, what are these alleged wonders? And how do you say that silly word in the title?

I hadn’t really done much with this ancient grain prior to a couple of years ago, but have firmly jumped on this superfood bandwagon and enjoy it in both sweet and savoury form!

From my various research on the subject, quinoa is chock full of protein, fibre, iron and lots of other good things, so as a grain, it packs a lot of punch! However, I know it can seem a little daunting when first encountered, so here are my tips.

Firstly, improve your street cred by pronouncing it correctly – it’s ‘keen-wah’, kinda like Joaquin Phoenix is pronounced’wah-keen’, but backwards, if that helps 🙂

Secondly, season it correctly – I think I turned my lovely husband off it initially by serving it in a rather bland salad with limited flavouring, and as it has a rather nutty taste and texture, that can be a bit off-putting when you’re getting used to it. However, the good news is that once it is combined with a good flavourful dressing or sauce, and other yummy ingredients, it is a lovely addition to any meal!

Two ways with quinoa

Use it as the base in a salad – this is one of the easiest ways to use quinoa, as you can use it in the same way you might use rice or couscous or another grain that you’ve used before with success!! The key to adding quinoa in a savoury dish, I believe, is to ensure that there is a nice dressing to your salad, as it will absorb it well and taste lovely.

1. To cook quinoa, it’s one part quinoa to 2 parts water, and it will quadruple once cooked, so 1/2 cup quinoa to 1 cup water = 2 cups cooked quinoa.
2. Rinse the quinoa if you remember before cooking (I often forget!), it helps remove some grit and starch.
3. Put required amount of quinoa and water in a pot, bring to the boil – you can use hot or cold water, whichever you prefer.
4. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes – basically, you can tell when quinoa is cooked because the little white tails come out of the grains, and the water should have pretty much been absorbed.
5. Drain (if needed) and add to your dish!

Recent successful quinoa adventures for us have included adding to a base salad of roast pumpkin, baby spinach, avocado, and kale, with a yummy homemade balsamic vinaigrette, involving oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard and lemon juice – mix to taste and coat! This salad was served with a maple baked salmon, which was delicious!!

The other night, at Jon’s suggestion (showing that one negative quinoa experience shouldn’t turn you off for life!) we made a lovely dukkah crusted chicken breast, with a quinoa salad involving carrots (pan-roasted), orange juice, mint, parsley, and shallot – really yummy!! See pic below 🙂

Quinoa salad

The lovely quinoa salad – we used mixed red, black and white quinoa, for the added colour element!

If you’re not sure if you’ll like quinoa as a salad base, and want to ease your way into it, one of my favourite snacks now involves quinoa in a sweet slicey form! I got this recipe from the lovely Anne of Fannetastic Foods (
and I really enjoy it!! It has all the elements I like in a snack bar – oats, peanut butter, dried fruit that isn’t apricot, and quinoa to boot! I make it pretty much the way she suggests, although I cook it a bit longer, so here’s my slightly modified recipe:

2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled a bit (cook it as per my directions above for savoury)
2 cups raw oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (or nut butter of choice – note, if you use crunchy peanut butter, it’s much harder to mix and has an uneven spread of buttery goodness, so use smooth!)
1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup brown rice syrup – I used this, and when I ran out partway through a batch, I substituted honey mixed with water, it seemed to work out ok too.
1/4 cup ground flaxseed – for the extra fibrey goodness!
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat your oven to 170c.
2. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl together and stir until everything is well mixed. You’ll need to use some muscle to get it all to mix!
3. Put everything into a flat baking dish, or, if you make a double batch like I did and realise you don’t have two deep enough baking dishes after you’ve already mixed everything, then you can also put into muffin tins with patty pan cases, they work just as well!
4. Pop it in the oven and bake about 12-15 minutes. I bake until it looks fairly solid and has browned a bit on the top, so usually closer to 15 than 12, but experiment with what consistency you like.
5. Cut into bar-sized snacks (one baking dish can yield 14 serves), wrap in Glad Wrap and store in fridge for the week. Extras can be frozen and last for months (see below), and are a great handy snack! It isn’t a crunchy bar, more of a soft bar, but so delicious!!

Quinoa bars

Quinoa bars, already frozen ready for a snack!

Quinoa bars in muffin cases

Quinoa bars in muffin style – still just as yummy, a bit crumblier to eat!

So, some quinoa suggestions for you to try – and please let me know your winning ways with quinoa in the comments!


Herbs – the backyard or balcony gardener’s staple. And for good reason – buying a bunch of herbs for one use usually costs around $3, and if you’re like most of us, it’s hard to use up the whole bunch before it gets all funny, whereas buying a plant (or seeds) of the same herb costs around the same, and will last you many more uses!! Herbs were the first things that I started growing (before I expanded to the triffid-like vegetables!), and I try to ensure that they continue to be present in our backyard garden, as frankly, they are fairly low maintenance, and great to help flavour most dishes!

However, not all herbs are created equal, in terms of ease of growing and maintenance, so I’ll give you some of my tips, and hope that you can share some of yours! In writing this post, I have realised that I need to concentrate more on a few larger pots of herbs, to ensure our regular supply of the ones we use, so I will endeavour to do so and let you know how I go! I have also noticed that some of my herbs are looking less happy than others, so in the interest of honesty, I’ll still write about those, and aim to increase the herb portion of my garden!

This appears to be one of the hardier of the herbs – I have usually about 3 pots of basil on the go, and while they may appear to go dormant sometimes, I find they usually spring back to life and continue to give me the sweet-smelling goodness!! Nothing better than fresh pesto made from your own basil! I also tend to chuck it into anything vaguely Mediterranean that I cook, ie if there is tomato and garlic, there is basil! I usually buy basil plants as seedlings, leave them in pots and see how they go, usually angling them near my tomato plants to keep the ecosystem happy, as they are good companions. However, in around August, I planted my first basil from seed – and look at the results!!


The basil (at the left of the pot) – happy and hardy!!

This is a dwarf basil variety, which is why the leaves don’t get massive, but it tastes great, and seems incredibly cheery with limited maintenance!! I have noticed, however, that it is thirstier than other basil plants, so I put a tray under the side of the planter so that it keeps its water for longer.

Mint is wonderful – it tastes great in salads and drinks and desserts, and smells so lovely!! Mint is also the hardiest herb I have – it will often completely die, then rise, phoenix-like, from its own ashes!! This particular plant has been living in various pots for a couple of years, and it is certainly much happier since I transplanted it into a larger space! That is the warning with mint, as it is basically a weed, it will take over your garden, so keep it with other herbs (even though it will usually colonise those too!) or limited in space so it doesn’t go too crazy!!


The mint very happy in its larger pot (and seeming to play well with the basil!)

This is a constant battle for me – I find coriander loves a good bolt, and goes to flower and seed more quickly than we use it – we sometimes go through phases of lots of Asian-style cooking, but not frequently enough to use the coriander in the 5 minutes where it is edible before it goes all spindly. So, I have also tried to grow it from seed, but with a little sad results, the multiple seeds planted led to one tiny plant, that, you guessed it, bolted before I used it!! I think I will have to take advice I saw on another blog and freeze the fresh herbs like these ones to use later, as clearly we don’t use coriander enough!! However, when I went to take these photos, I noticed that there was a bit of coriander powering away in this pot, so I will attempt to do something with it prior to bolting!


Coriander stretching out

This makes me sad – I am up to what must be my 6th rosemary plant, and cannot keep it alive!!! I have tried various permutations – I know it doesn’t like too much water, so I don’t water it, then it goes all woody, and dies. So then I try to water it a little, then it dies. I try to keep it out of the rain, it dies. I leave it in full sun, it dies. It’s such a shame, I love rosemary so much, particularly in meat and potato wintry dishes, but I always seem to be doing something wrong!! I have only bought it in pots, however, so maybe the key is to plant from seed? Or something else? Any insight in the comments would be gratefully received – it’s quite galling, I know it’s supposed to one of the hardier herbs, but it is eluding me!! All tips are welcome!!

Sad rosemary

Another one bites the dust …

I have a couple of small pots of parsley, that seem fairly perennial, but never quite enough for the recipes I need, so I think I will try from seed/larger seedlings and see how I go. And in fact, when I went to take these photos, I discovered my parsley had entirely gone, and I have no memory of removing it, so either it’s been eaten or it died and I removed it and I have blocked the trauma from my brain – either way, clearly time to grow some more!!

This is a great herb – it seems happy to live with very little maintenance in questionable conditions (it and the mint were the last herbs standing in a pot that had held parsley and coriander as well, and the thyme and mint had a stand-off for many months until I finally moved the mint – I don’t know if the thyme feels victorious or lonely) – it is going so well in its rather arid pot that I don’t dare move it, although I am now wondering whether it is getting too woody and may finally leave me … And in fact, when I took the photo of the coriander above, you’ll notice some woody stems in the background, that’s the thyme!! I hope it’s just sleeping, and will re-emerge victorious in a few months …


Thyme not looking so great in the back there …

I use this herb rarely (I like to chop it up and put it in scrambled eggs or sprinkle on a hardboiled egg every now and again), but it thrives with limited intervention from me, apart from getting fairly tufty and needing a haircut every few months.

Other herbs
I don’t tend to grow other herbs, because the ones I’ve discussed are the ones we use most often, but do tell me if you have success with others that you recommend!

So, that’s my rather tumultuous herb tale – the novice gardener, as I am, will still have these trials and tribulations, it’s about finding what works, in terms of maintenance, watering and companionship, and going from there – I recommend only growing herbs that you like and will use, otherwise they will just be a pretty addition to your garden without much use!

Update: I found the parsley – poor thing, it had clearly fallen off the rack in the crazy rainy windy weather we’ve been having, and the pot had been replaced on the rack minus the little parsley plant, which was looking very forlorn and shrivelled on the ground. Alas for the parsley!! I will buy some seeds and go from there – your death will not be in vain!!