Easy Green Tomato Chutney

Got a lot of green tomatoes?

For those of us in the southern hemisphere we are now well and truly heading into autumn.

Chances are your tomato plants have finished producing tomatoes and are a withering heap of brown mess in your vege patch. But on the off chance you do still have a few scraggly plants with a mixture of red and green fruit then this is the post for you!

Last year my tiny vegetable garden was a great success.

Our vege haul

I managed to rope in my long suffering father to give me a hand tidying up

Tidying the garden

He even cleared my compost bin – my most hated chore.

Clearing the compost bin

Thanks dad!

We had an over abundance of green tomatoes and couldn’t bear the thought of them going to waste. Green tomato Collage

Don’t they look spectacular.

So my mother (another long suffering family member) taught me how to do some preserving.

Green tomato chutney cooking

We used this recipe I’d found in the New Zealand Gardener 2012 Garden Diary

Green Tomato Chutney Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 500g green tomatoes chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 500g onion chopped
  • 250g sultanas, raisins, prunes or dried apricots
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 500ml malt vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp curry powder

Method:

Combine ingredients in a heavy-based pot, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until thick (60 min).

Leave for at least a week….

….Hmmm, since we didn’t have a week to wait (my parents were only visiting for the weekend), we sort of skipped the ‘leave for  a week’ part. We were really pleased with how it turned out. Although I do have a few tips to help you compensate:

Tips: Add more curry powder to compensate for taste, as you can see from the photo (above) I was very liberal with it, also when you’re spooning the chutney into jars make sure it’s well mixed – some jars were a bit more vinegary than others and I think this is because it hadn’t had that week for the vinegar to be absorbed into the rest of the ingredients. So making sure it’s well stirred as you spoon it in will help.

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Tea pot planter

Give old tea pots a new lease on life

I’ve got this cute little tea pot

It was given to us as an engagement present many years ago…

I really love the pot, but it taints the tea with an overpowering metallic taste. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve washed or soaked it, the metallic taste still remains! So instead of letting it gather dust in our china cabinet I am going to give it a new life.

It’s new job will be growing some ivy plants I bought.

I don’t really want to drill holes in the base for drainage, so I filled the base with broken pieces of ceramic.

The dish was badly cracked and ready for the rubbish bin.

I smashed it up with a hammer and placed the pieces at the base of the tea pot.

Then I placed the ivy and filled the spaces with mulch

Once it was done I added a bit of moss to the top of the pot to hide the dirt and help keep it moist.

And that’s it!

It’s been something I’ve been meaning to do to for ages.

Glad I can finally tick that off the list.

How to screen an ugly rubbish bin

Hide that trash can!

Council rubbish bins aren’t pretty.

Since we have a double garage we had our bin in there. But between household waste and a large dog, it got pretty whiffy (you can imagine why).

So we decided to put it outside, but it was just so UGLY! It was the first thing I saw when we drove up the driveway and it really bothered me.

There are a lot of elaborate (and expensive) ways to screen off your bins. I considered making something like this, out of reclaimed wood…

But, we don’t really have the room and in the end I opted for the one that was FREE and has involved absolutely NO CONSTRUCTION. All it took was a bit of imagination and some hedge clippers.

For the last couple of months I have been carving out a cavity between my garage door and the hedge. It’s hard to show in this photo but there is quite a significant space in there (and yes, I agree, I need to sweep my driveway…)

It’s getting there – and while it isn’t completely hidden (yet) it’s certainly a vast improvement.

That ugly red lid is still peeking out…

But at least it’s not the first thing when I see when I arrive home now!

So before you break out the wallet or grab a hammer, think alternatively about hiding your trash cans.

How to fertilize your garden for FREE

Thanks Starbucks!

That’s not normally something I would say, being a bit of a coffee snob, but I was walking past Starbucks the other day and noticed a basket full of free, used coffee grounds.

Unable to pass up anything with ‘FREE’ stamped across it, I grabbed a bag and lugged it back home.

If you have a garden then coffee grounds are great, they’re rich in nitrogen so can go directly into your vegetable patch, compost and worm bin by acting as a mulch and fertilizer.

Apparently them sprinkling along the surface deters cats from using your garden as a litter box, but I’m not convinced. The cats in our neighbourhood don’t seem to mind  java squishing between their paws.

If your local coffee shop doesn’t offer free coffee grounds for keen gardeners, then just ask, most are more than happy for your to take their rubbish off their hands.

It’s a double good of improving your soil and avoiding the remains of your java ending up in the landfill.

Win, win.

How to dry flowers the quick and easy way

What to do with those fading Valentines Roses

My lovely husband bought me a bunch of red roses for Valentines Day, but they are already looking sad. I thought about just throwing them in the compost bin, but that seemed like such a WASTE.

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I couldn’t even feed a few petals to Snowie the Crafty Rabbit for a little treat, not with all this guff in the media about poison dipped roses. Wouldn’t want to make the bun bun sick.

When we got married, I dried hundreds of flowers for our guests to throw at us as we walked down the aisle. I experimented with every method you can think of, but finally ended up using a microwave because it was fast and gave me the best results.

They turned out pretty good.

You will need

  • Roses
  • Secateurs
  • Microwave
  • Paper towels

Take six segments of paper towels, ripping the sheets after every second one. Remove the rose heads from the stems and tear the petals off, placing them one by one across one side of the paper towel. They dry more consistently when they’re separated out.

Fold the sheet over the petals and place in the microwave.

The petals should be nicely sandwiched between the two sheets.

Every microwave is different, so you may have to adjust the time and power depending on yours, but I put my on for 13 seconds at 90% power.  Do that three times, opening the door to allow the moisture out and to check on how they are drying.

As you’re waiting for the first batch to dry in the microwave, start on the second batch. You’ll find you’ll be able to get quite a chain of work going as you wait for the microwave. I could manage three batches at once.

When you finally take them out of the microwave leave the sheet off the petals to cool down and dry out. They should look, and feel dry, but not dessicated and crumbly. To transport them to and from the microwave I put them between two solid books to stop them falling onto the floor.

You should also note that drying them can change their colour quite dramatically. My roses were a bright pinky red before I dried them, after they were more of a deep maroon/burgundy.

When you’re done, put them in a bowl and sprinkle essential oil over them.

And that’s it. To make a bowl of dried flowers it took me about 25 minutes including prep time.

Super easy.

Tip: Experiment with different flowers – lavender, viola or even citrus leaves or herbs such as mint, or sprigs of rosemary

Easy Homemade Muesli

Spice up your breakfast

Sick of boring cereal and blah muesli from the supermarket? Well, how about making your own…

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This is the easiest recipe you can make, it’s just a matter of throwing a few things from the cupboard.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sultanas
  • 1/4 cup apricots
  • 1/4 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 3 tbsp shredded coconut

Combine ingredients, slicing apricots into smaller pieces. Serve with milk, plain yoghurt and fresh blueberries, raspberries,  strawberries.

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If you’re missing any of the ingredients you can just swap it for whatever you have handy in your cupboard. Add 1-2 tbsp of wheatgerm to give it an added hit of fiber.

Convert it into bircher by adding 1/2 cup of orange/apple juice, 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup of shredded coconut and leaving in the fridge overnight.

Try adding: walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, dried apples, goji berries or blueberries

Of coarse, I can’t take all the credit for this, the latest issue of healthyfoodguide.co.nz was a great source of inspiration!

Enjoy!

Gingerbread Men!

The Crafty Rabbit has been going into overdrive with the Christmas Spirit this December.

It’s the first time I decided to tackle Gingerbread Men. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by them.

Yes, they’re adorable, and delicious, but look at all that fussy decorating! I decided to shelve my fears and give it a go anyway.

Gingerbread1 First off, I chose a recipe.

A lot of the U.S recipes called for Molasses (the non-black strap variety). Well, we mustn’t have it in NZ because I searched about 4 supermarkets looking for it. I settled on a recipe a bit closer to home at Taste.Com. Check it out: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/9761/gingerbread+men

Ingredients:

125g butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
1 egg, separated
375g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Plain flour, to dust
150g (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sifted

Method:

Step 1 Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush 2 baking trays with melted butter to lightly grease.

Gingerbread2Step 2 Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Step 3 Meanwhile, place egg white in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among 3 bowls. Cover 1 bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Add red colouring to 1 bowl and stir until combined. Add green colouring to remaining bowl and stir until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Gingerbread3Step 4 Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick. Use a 9cm gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes. Place on trays about 3cm apart. Repeat with any excess dough.

Step 5 Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Step 6 Place prepared icings in small plastic bags. Cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread men to decorate.

The Crafty Rabbits Final Thoughts…

Overall they turned out really well, tasted delicious and looked great. I think my husband has eaten his weight in Gingerbread Men. They made great Christmas gifts as I boxed them up with red and green string and gave them to friends.

But…I had a few difficulties…you had to get a bit of a technique going between transporting the cut dough onto the tray as they tended to break apart, I found the best way was to use a mini spatula and ‘flop’ it onto the baking tray. Also, the “15 minute prep time” and the “10 minute cook time is deceptive”. All-in-all it took me a good three hours to finish them! But…I loved how they turned out and will be making them again next year.