Monday, 16 July 2018

Lull Before the Storm - Cruising New Zealand

It's been a personal battle to decide whether I should be posting this - but in the end I thought it would be best to let everyone know why I haven't posted for a few months. The lull before the storm relates to my cruise to New Zealand aboard Holland America's Noordam and the discovery the week after, that I have cancer.

At the end of March I took a wonderful trip to New Zealand, my first to this part of the world and first cruise too and it was a definite holiday. No cooking, no cleaning, no bed making, no washing up! I could laze about on the deck, go sight seeing on land or sit in one of the bars drinking cocktails. In fact I did all of the above.

From Sydney to our first stop in Hobart, Tasmania and a day spent at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). This amazing architectural building is perched on the Berridale Peninsula.  It is owned by Australian millionaire  David WalshWhat a fabulous experience and one which could have last a few days but sadly we only had that one day to explore. Here are a few photos to show what it looks like both inside and out.

Two days later and we arrived at Milford Sound - in the mist and rain and just as I had hoped for. Milford Sound is a fiord on the southern island of NZ. There are hundreds of waterfalls that cascade off the cliffs, forests and towering peaks and the best time to see it is at this time of year.

One of the perfect days spent in the south island was in Picton. A very cute town with a pretty harbour. The highlight was a small boat trip to find Hector Dolphins, Shags and to visit an uninhabited bird sanctuary in the middle of the ocean.

Onwards to Wellington, Christchurch and Rotarua and its geothermal lakes.

Auckland was our last stop due to a storm heading our way and we were unable to stop at the Bay of Islands. To avoid 8 meter waves we headed further north before turning left to get back to Sydney, our original starting point.

So cruising? Do you love it or hate it? If you want a holiday where you unpack once and have nothing to do but relax, then I would say yes. But if being at sea for a couple of days makes you a bit edgy then I'd say give it a wide berth.

The food on the cruise was plentiful and a good variety, even for a vegetarian. Sadly there were too many desserts and ice cream which did nothing for my waistline. Alcohol was expensive, except at Happy Hour when first drink was full price and second $2. Fav part of the day.

We joined in the Trivia Nights and were lucky have have a few wins under our belt.

Overall the service was excellent, the food plentiful and the scenery fantastic.

I had a tour of the kitchens, chatted to the skinny pastry chef and over indulged in their chocolate extravaganza on the last night at sea. 

On my return to Adelaide and a scheduled colonoscopy changed my life. I've been diagnosed with bowel cancer - something that was certainly not on my radar.

So far I've been through 25 radiotherapy sessions - oral chemotherapy - which put me in hospital for a week with raging diarrhea and I am now waiting to find out the next step, which isn't going to be pretty.

Blogging has been fun, but I'm tired from the radiotherapy and I have little interest in food right now, so I am taking a break to rest, get my body fitter and better prepared for the road ahead and mentally prepare myself for what is going to be the biggest test of my entire life. Wish me luck! 

Thanks for following. Adieu!

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Open Garden Scheme - Things I Learnt

If you want to sticky beak around other people's gardens, legally,  then feast your eyes on South Australia's Open Garden Scheme.

This is a great way to find out what other people are growing and how they are growing it. Sneak a peak at their veggie plots (sample a baby tomato - naughty) and the myriad of tricks to learn from some of the really talented gardeners that open their spaces to the public.

In some places you even get invited inside the house - bonus!

I am gobsmacked at how amazing and talented people are in planting up their patch. And as a garden lover, it's fantastic to learn new tricks, new ways with old plants and how to add a bit of colour and interest into dark, shady areas. Or how to hide an ugly fence with a crazy climber I would never have thought of.

I visited 3 gardens in spring and a couple in summer but I chose ones that were completely opposite to the area where I live. 

Firstly the two I was particularly interested in were in the middle of the city at Mile End. I wanted to check out how they managed to get great vegetables growing when the temperatures soar into the 40's, while mine wither away to nothing when we have continually hot days. And wow, did they have some great vegetables. 

Hector's Patch - Mile End

I've not kept chickens in my current garden, but I sure would like to find a little space to put some and both of these gardens managed to squeeze in chicken coops. So I am now hell bent on finding a spot to have 2 or 3 Bantams. So cute!

Mile End Village Garden

If you get a chance visit The Garden in Eden Hills, South Australia you wont be disappointed. I was lucky enough to photograph this garden before the crowds arrived. Professionally designed and lovingly tended by a couple of dedicated gardeners, this garden screams 'romance'. Stone walls, woodland plantings, roses, chickens, bees and a vegetable plot all add to the ambience of the garden. How they fit it all in and still retain this air of elegance is truly beyond me. 

The Garden, Eden Hills

But back to reality!

Here's my list of things that I learnt that I need to work on in my garden;

- Start a new compost heap and design a different way of composting which suits my needs. I can tick that off already started. 

- Put more flowering plants amongst the vegetables - New beds have been dug and mulched, just waiting for the autumn rains now and planting can begin.

- Build a small shade house to protect seedlings and more delicate plants - have to find someone to do that for me before next spring.

- Art adds a great dimension to the plantings. - Add more art to my garden or make it more prominent - I am working on an idea for a new pathway.

- Plant more vegetables in pots. - I've started this already putting beans in a large pot and after only a few weeks they are already producing.

- New ways to support growing vegetables without using stakes. Great ideas for next spring - you will have to wait and see them in action.

- How to protect your vegetables from the ravages of summer - Ikea beach umbrellas now on my list.

Tickle Tank, Mt Barker
The last garden I visited was Tickle Tank,  in Mt Barker. It  was terrific. I won't say a lot about the garden because I have included a link to give you the history of the house and garden and I think my photos will inspire you. There is so much to like about this place; mosaics, artwork, the plantings themselves and the craziness of the whole idea.  The garden has been featured on ABC's Gardening program too. If you get the opportunity to see it next spring then make it a date!

For a $6 - 8 entry fee, I have learnt a whole lot of new tricks, I've had a great chat to few more gardeners and my enthusiasm for my own place has never been stronger. Roll on autumn and winter and let's get cracking.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

French Sweet and Salty Biscuits

"France cannot be France without greatness" 
Charles de Gaulle
French Sweet and Salty Biscuits
I feel the pull to go back to visit France, but I can't get there this year, so I have done the next best thing and indulged in a little French cuisine. 

While French cuisine and vegetarian don't go that well together, I've been able to adapt some recipes which gives me a taste of France and some solace at times like this. But more about those later. I'm here with a treat for you today and a warning message.

Before giving you this recipe I have to make apologies. 

I am sorry that you may not lose weight because you will eat too many of these biscuits. You will not be able to make a batch and keep them to yourself.
You will probably send extra time in the kitchen because you'll have to keep making more and more of them. But by golly they are worth all of this!

These biscuits are crunchy on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside. Sweet, but not sickly and amazingly the salty topping just gives you something that says "yes!"

I first made these biscuits in the 1980's and I think people were surprised that a  bit of salt on the top of something sweet worked so well. The French use this combination in many of their dishes, but in the 80's, it was quite daring!

There's a variety of French salty desserts like Kouign -Amann and the move to using salted butter rather than unsalted butter for pastries has become very popular. Sablés, salty biscuits from Breton are crispy sweet biscuits made using salted butter.  David Lebovitz has a lovely recipe for these on his site;

The recipe I am sharing today is the combination of a plain sweet biscuits made using soft dark brown sugar and adding salt flakes part way through cooking, to give you that salty kick. And as I said earlier - I'm sorry!  Bon chance!


The most important aspect of making these biscuits is to get the butter to the right colour before continuing. It can be tricky, but don't try to rush the process and you will be fine.


210g of butter
2 cups soft dark brown sugar
2 cups plain flour 
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup caster sugar
salt flakes

Pre heat oven to 170ºFan Forced/350º/Gas 4

In a small saucepan over a very low heat melt only 200g butter. Keep cooking the butter very slowly, twirling around in the saucepan every minute until the butter turns golden brown. Once it turns take it off the heat. If you leave it too long it will burn and you can't use it, so go slowly and carefully. (This is the only tricky bit, the rest you can do with your eyes closed). Once you have reached this point take off the heat and stir in the remainder 10g butter. Allow to cool for 12 minutes. Phew, all done!

Now whisk the dark brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon table salt into the butter, so there are no lumps.

Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla and whisk again.

Combine flour, soda, baking powder and mix into the butter, again make sure the flour is completely mixed in. The dough is getting quite stiff by now. 

In a small bowl add caster sugar. Now take tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls. You should make 24 -  26 small balls out of this dough. Now roll the balls in the caster sugar then place them on two trays lined with baking paper.

At this point I like to flatten them a little. Leave space between the balls to allow for the biscuits to rise.

Bake in the oven for 8 -10 minutes until they just start to brown, then sprinkle them with salt flakes. Put them back in the oven and bake for a further 2 - 4 minutes until they look light brown but not dry. 

Cool on the tray for 2 minutes then transfer to a rack until completely cold.

You can freeze these but allow them to defrost slowly.

Then, try and eat only one - ha ha, I bet you couldn't do it.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Mushroom Chilli with Lime

Lately, I've been pondering a lot about the meaning of life! I think Douglas Adams and Monty Python have already had a few stabs at it. There's a lot of talk about it, quotes about it but has anyone actually defined it?

"Life is rather like a tin of sardines-we're all of us looking for the key." Alan Bennett 

So has this anything to do with Mushroom Chilli with Lime? Absolutely!

If this meaning involves giving your body the best possible food, which in turn will keep you healthy then yes, its all part of the meaning of life, for me anyway. And it fuels the brain and gives more time for procrastinating and thinking of what the hell am I really doing here.

Hey, this is getting a little heavy. 

I need to add more value to what I am doing in my later years, so it is time to get all my jobs done, things I have put off for a while, then I will have some breathing space. I have made a huge list and I am going to work through this over the next couple of months. That painting job, family history, the garden project, the photography project, the collage, that mandala etc etc.

With all that accomplished it will be time to plan the rest of my life...................!

So to start off this rather eventful week, I offer you this delicious, easy to make, flavoursome, low calorie recipe (around 200 calories). It's full of fibre, protein, vitamin C and D, B6, Riboflavin and Niacin. 

Can you beat that?



500g mushrooms, sliced thickly
400g can of kidney beans, washed and drained
1 brown onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic diced
1 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground chilli or chilli flakes (more if you want it really hot)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons smokey paprika
salt and pepper
400g can chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
handful fresh coriander, chopped
juice of 1/2 lime

Lime dressing
1/4 cup  light sour cream or Greek yoghurt
ime zest and juice 

Make the lime dressing first. Zest the lime and juice it. Keep the juice and the zest seperate.  Put the zest, 1/4 cup of Greek yoghurt and half the juice into a small container and stir to incorporate. Now set aside.

In a large frypan add oil and bring it up to temperature. Lower the heat and add all of the spices and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Do no allow the spices to burn or they will be very bitter.

Next, add the mushrooms. Cook relatively high so the mushrooms colour up but do not release juices. Throw in the chopped garlic and keep stirring, making sure that everything is covered in the oil and spices. 

Time to add the washed beans and tomatoes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for approximately 25 - 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Make sure you stir often to avoid burning.

Add the juice of half of the lime and stir in. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the top with more chopped coriander and a few dollops of the lime dressing.

Serve with salad, rice, quinoa, cous cous, bread or just eat by itself.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Oat and Almond Biscuits - A Healthy Alternative

Hello 2018! Welcome to what is going to be a roller coaster of a year. Kitchen renovations, travel, hiking and a plethora of kayaking as well as great food and stories. Firstly Fruit and Nut Biscuits - a healthy alternative.

I'm back from my December break and really motivated to be in the kitchen whipping up heaps of new recipes I have been playing with over the holidays. 

Might have to wait for the weather to cool a little before I really cook up a storm, but I'm starting with a little sweet treat because of a change in my diet (more on that later.)

I was on the hunt for a biscuit - you know just a tiny morsel of something a little sweet for my morning break, but with a lot of healthy stuff in it.

I've spent a long time looking and trying and I've decided this is the best I can do. I mean seriously, is there such a thing as a healthy biscuit?

Chocolate was definitely out, so was a Jammy Dodger
It needed to be healthy, nutty, fruity, not too sweet and fast to make. I think these just about cover all of that.

According to Good To Know, in Britain people eat their way through 141 million packs of biscuits per year! My goodness that is a staggering number of calories! I am sure Australia is almost as bad statistically. No wonder we have an obesity problem. 

In my research I came across this website,  Australian Healthy Food Guide. It has some great food facts, tips for eating well, recipes and more. Even if you are not in Australia I am sure you would find something of interest here. Go ahead and check it out.

Anyway, I have taken one of their biscuit recipes and adapted it to suit my taste and as far as biscuits go, it's reasonably healthy, providing you don't pig out on the whole batch in one go. 

Now let me think it time for a cuppa and a biscuit yet?

Here's the recipe.



1 cup rolled oats
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 raw almonds, skin removed, roughly chopped - see note*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
80g margarine
3/4 cup of soft brown sugar or dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups plain flour
2 -3 tablespoons of fresh orange juice

1. Cream sugar, vanilla and margarine together in a bowl until light and creamy in texture.

2. Beat the egg into the margarine mixture.

3. Sieve baking powder, baking soda and flour and fold into the the creamed margarine.

4. Next, add the oats, nuts and fruit and fold in until well incorporated. Add  orange juice and mix thoroughly. Use your hands if it's easier.

5. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball the size of a large walnut. Place these on a tray lined with baking paper. Slightly flatten each one with the back of a fork. 

6. Bake in a preheated oven 160ºFF/350F for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on tray for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack. When cold, store in an air tight container for up to 5 days. Makes around 24 -26 biscuits.

* to take skin off raw almonds, place in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for a couple of minutes and the skins will easily slip off.