Sunday, 26 September 2021

The Big Experiment - Cooking in the Camp Oven

One of the goals I mentioned at the start of the month was to try some camp oven cooking. The big experiment......assisted by advice from my brother and some Youtube videos.

I know it isn't rocket science, but just something that we have never really tried.  We are using heat beads, rather than a camp fire.  Much easier in the back yard and easier to regulate the heat.  
We are using this little doo dad to get the beads to temperature. The theory is that the number of heat beads used is determined by the diameter of the camp oven (ours is 10 inches). You sit the camp oven on two less than the diameter and then place two more than the diameter on top, so in our case, eight beads underneath and twelve on top. 
We also cheated and used Mum's old oven thermometer to check that the oven was hot enough.
We started out with a very basic, traditional damper.  The recipe is three cups of S.R. flour, a pinch of salt and about a cup of warm water.  That's it.  Just mix with a knife and don't knead it.  I was a bit dubious as to how it would go, but it looked the part.
It didn't even look too bad once cut.
And  most important, the proof was in the eating and it was good, if slightly heavier than scones.  Golden syrup and jam were the obvious choice of spread.  I know we should have had billy tea, but our coffee was just as good.

The next plan was to roast a chook.  However, the chook I bought was too large for the pot.  It was a large chook and our camp oven wasn't.  (We actually decided that the next size up, a 12 inch/9 quart version, would be more practical, so were going to go shopping.  However, my brother has several and had one he no longer uses, so yesterday he sent it our way, which was nice.)

Seeing as the chook didn't go ahead (it was cooked in the usual manner in the oven and tasted great) we tried something else.

While we were playing with the rustic camp oven we may as well play with this vintage small pie dish we bought at an antique centre in Uralla some time ago.  The idea is the little handle releases the baking from the pan.
There we go.  One little spinach and feta pie in the pot ready to cook.  It was quite funny seeing Mick put it in the pot, using two wire hooks to lower it in and then get it out, balancing it very carefully.
Another success.  It looked delicious.
The little handle on the pan worked OK, but would probably be better on cakes.  It was also a pain to clean under the handle.  The pie was as tasty as it looked.  This recipe is one that Shez shared on her blog some years ago and I often make it.

The next meal in the camp oven, cooked yesterday, was steak and Guiness stew.  Well, it was actually steak and Tooheys Old stew, using the new to us larger camp oven.
In actual fact, the smaller camp oven would have been better for this meal.  At Chooky's suggestion we added some dumplings to the top.  They look a bit ordinary, as the heat beads started to lose their heat before the meal was cooked.  We now know that next time we want to cook something long and slow to add a few more heat beads half way through the cooking time.  We ended up putting the camp oven in the hooded barbecue for the last half hour.
The end result was still delicious.  We found a nice bottle of cab merlot in the cupboard and sat down to a very tasty and satisfying dinner.  The best bit is that we get to eat the same meal and finish off the bottle of red tonight with very little effort.

Now that we have the larger camp oven, we will probably try a roast in it next weekend.  Watch this space.

Friday, 24 September 2021

What We've Been Getting Up To

So what have we been up to while we are still in lock down?

I've been going to work, like normal, whereas Mick has stopped working  again, which is good, considering he is supposed to be retired.  

Mick is always happy pottering away in his shed and has been having a great time playing with his new toy.......which I still haven't shared here......I will.....soon.  He also enjoys playing in the garden and has it looking lovely.

Me, well I'm always happy playing in my sewing room.

Other than that, when it rained last weekend I went and pulled out this little box.
It is only about four inches square and holds a little 100 piece puzzle.  Mum bought it at the church white elephant stall a few years ago.  However, it just sat in her room for a couple of years and I know she would not be able to manage it now, so I brought it home.  Mum loves jigsaws.  When she was a dressmaking teacher in the 1950s and boarding in a lady's home she would do jigsaws.  She had some lovely ones of paintings of English castles. They are here now.  I may get them out and revisit them.  For someone who was not at all sporty, during the hot summer you would always find Mum sitting at the dining table, watching the cricket on the tele and working on a large jigsaw.  
Mick and I sat down to this little one and had it completed in an hour.  There was no picture to guide us, just the shapes of the pieces.  It was a nice little interlude.  I think another puzzle will come out soon.  Our only problem is that we only have one big table in the house, so it is a bit tricky to have one set up for any length of time.  We'll see how we go.
I've been reading.  My goal was to read at least one book this month.  Well, so far I've read five and the month isn't over yet.



Robert Goddard is an author we came across either at an op shop or book exchange and have found a few in our travels.  They are all mysteries, but not your normal formula.  I have a couple more sitting next to my chair to read soon.  We'll keep an eye out for more of his books.

Neither of us have ever read an ebook, always having plenty of "real" books to keep us amused.  However, Mick is in a bit of a dilemma, as he is running out of reading material.  He is a prolific reader and the op shops and library are all closed to the public at the moment.
I decided it was time to have a play around with the ebooks at the library.  I had read on a blog about "The Thursday Murder Club", so thought it would be a good one to start with, but it was only available on hold.  In the meantime, I grabbed whatever came up quickly, so read this old Pryne Fisher book.
I was pleased when my requested book became available much sooner than anticipated.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  As the review said, it was funny and clever.  The sequel "The Man Who Died Twice" has been released, but it is on reserve until March 2022.  I'll get to it at some stage.

Mick has even read one ebook.  However, he finds the font too small on his phone or the ipad, so is just using his laptop.
We've been baking again.  Also, as one of my goals this month I had said it would be good to revisit some old favourite recipes that I haven't made in years.
Firstly, one afternoon I wanted something quick and tasty, so made some pikelets.  This is also something that I haven't made in years.  There were too many for just us, so a plateful was also sent to our lovely next door neighbours.
I had some carrots in the fridge that needed using, so carrot cake was the perfect way to use them up. Carrot cake is also something I haven't made in years.  This recipe is one I pulled from a Family Circle back in 1983, shortly after I left school.  It is as yummy as I remember.

There was far too much of the cream cheese icing, so we then made some muffins.  The same recipe as we used for the raspberry and pear ones, but this time we used apple and walnut.  Yummo.  We reckon we may try apple and ginger next time.

I have also revisited two other old recipes.  Meatballs in Beer Sauce and Spanish Chicken. It's been fun dusting off the old recipes.

So, all in all, we have not had any trouble filling in our time at home and are really enjoying it.  Having said that, we do realise that we are in a very fortunate place in our lives to be able to enjoy this time at home.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Spring Has Sprung

Here it is, three weeks into to spring and I've hardly posted at all. That is not to say that things haven't been happening.
Our wattle tree was putting on its best show at the start of the month for Wattle Day.
The fragrance was divine and the bees were loving it.

The weather has been all over the place, as it typically is at this time of year.  We have had glorious days with the temperature up to the low 20s C, only to then have cold fronts come through and it plummet to not even reaching double digits and a dusting of snow on the hills in the district.
The winter display on our little kitchen shelf has been put away.
To be replaced by a more spring like offering.
Our weeping cherry tree, which we have now had for two years, put on a nice show, as did the ring of mixed daffodils around its base.
Back in autumn we visited Canowindra and I bought a packet of white daffodil bulbs.  They are blooming beautifully, with two blooms on each stem, which is unusual.

We have planted our tomato seedlings in pots and they are getting a bit of a start in the green house.  The snow peas are growing nicely, but only three ordinary pea seeds germinated, so they have been replanted and are now just starting to poke their heads through the surface.
The cherry tree blossoms have just about finished now, just in time for the crab apple to put on its show.

What we have really enjoyed is mornings that are warm enough to eat our breakfasts out on the back verandah, which receives lovely morning sun.


In normal times we always say we are not very good at staying home, but it really has been nice to be at home at this time of year.

We have had a few walks, when the weather has been nice, but not as many as we should do.  Living on the edge of town, we can wander through suburbia, or we can head up the hill behind our house and be in among the paddocks.
The view to the west is glorious.
Some gum trees will be covered in blossoms before long.
It's hard to believe that there are suburbs just down behind the first hill.

Well that's enough for today.  I'll share more of what we have been up to shortly.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

A Little Bit of Stitching

I've managed to get a little bit of stitching done in the last day or so.
Yesterday evening was Friday Night with Friends hosted by Cheryll.

I was planning to be very productive, but got sidetracked by a book I was reading.  As I've mentioned before, I'm a bit of a binge reader, so I settled in and finished my book.  After that I went into the sewing room.
By bed time I had made another five bibs to be donated.......except for the snaps.  I will get to those at some stage.

So, not a great deal of stitching, but it was still a couple of hours in the sewing room and more achieved than I would usually of an evening.
This morning was another Zoom gathering organised by Chookyblue.  This time it just went till lunch time, which was still enjoyable.  Quite a few girls popped in and out.  There were often twelve on at a time.
My project of choice for these times has been my little redwork blocks for my Christmas project.  I just about completed my next block while stitching with everyone else and then finished it off after lunch.
This is how much thread I have left.  I still have one more block to stitch, so will have to get another skein, so I'm not sure if I will get the second block completed this month.  We'll see how we go.

I'm going to have to think of another hand work project to work on, as that is by far the easiest while chatting away.
After that I went into my sewing room and made a couple of more caravan decorated tea towels.  They are a fun and quick little make.

Now to decide what to work on next.

Friday, 3 September 2021

My Goals for September

Here we are, already in spring and it is time for me to decide what I wish to achieve this month, considering we are still in lock down and aren't sure when restrictions will ease.

Firstly, my stitching goals.

This was a hard one.  I have so many things running around in my head.  In the end I decided that I would like to progress the Laundry Basket Quilts Mystery Quilt towards a quilt top.  
There are 225 blocks to arrange, kind of like a jigsaw, and then stitch together.  I'm not sure what I will do for a border, and also not sure what fabric I will have here that will be suitable.  My goal will just to get all the blocks joined together.

This will be a very simple aim this month.  I just want to get my garden trellis quilt top completed, by fixing my boo boo, where I have to turn a block around, and add the border. 
I will then see if I have any suitable fabric for the backing, and if so, try to get it to my quilting fairy.    We'll just have to see how much of that is possible to achieve this month.

3.    CHRISTMAS CHALLENGE
There are just two more little redwork blocks to stitch before I decide what to make with them all.  I know I'm slack with hand work, but I really want to get those final two blocks stitched.  I have a feeling I will run out of my thread before I finish, but rather than muck around getting another skein at this point, I will just substitute whatever I can from my stash of threads.

4.    MAKE A DONATION PROJECT

This is a new goal I am adding this month.  I've made something for the last couple of months, so I think it is doable to make something each month.  It may be another baby quilt, or bibs, or pencil cases, or something else.  Just something.

 
Cheryll is hosting us tonight, so I will join in.  Let's hope I'm more productive than last month.

I hope to have at least one finish, if not more to report to Kris at the end of next month.

7.    ZOOMING

I will be joining in with Chookyblue tomorrow morning for another Zoom get together.  A wonderful way to connect with other stitchers.
Now for my non stitching goals.

There won't be too many, as we are somewhat restricted with the current lock down.

1.    READ A BOOK

I hope to read at least one, if not more.

2.    TRY A NEW RECIPE

I think I wish to expand this to also revisit a recipe I haven't made in ages.  There are recipes in my folder I haven't made in years.  They have been kept because they are yummy, so it is time to make them again.

3.    FRIDAY FUN DAY

Well, I don't think this will be happening.  I can still have fun, but I don't expect we will be able to be out and about as yet.

4.    HAVE A WEEKEND AWAY IN THE CARAVAN

Obviously, this won't happen either, but we will really appreciate it when we are able to travel again.

In the meantime, we have decided to have a go at camp oven cooking in our back yard.  We've had a camp oven for ages, but have never really used it.  That way we will be ready to make use of it when we do get to hit the road.