Another productive weekend! My hands and fingers are red raw from pulling out ivy and the backs of my knees are sunburnt from bending over in the garden all day, but it's been worth it. Our newly cleared land is already shaping up nicely. We borrowed a smaller chipper from the in-laws to shred all the ivy and as we were hard at work our neighbour came along and helpfully offered the use of his rotary hoe to turn over the earth. It's looking so much better already and hasn't cost us a cent so far! We're both really excited about turning the area into something productive, especially as the results from Noel's vege garden are really beginning to pay off. It's such a rewarding feeling, dishing up delicious, healthy meals we have grown ourselves. Last night I served up a huge vegetable lasagne, made with onions, silverbeet and zucchini from the garden. Noel and Ali both love it – the first time I tested it out on Noel, he didn't even realise there wasn't any meat in it! If you've never made one, here's a brilliant recipe you just have to try!
Garden Cafe Vegetable Lasagne
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups grated carrot
2 courgettes, chopped
1 red or green pepper, chopped
½ cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups chopped silverbeet
400g can tomato puree
400g can peeled tomatoes in juice, chopped
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp dried basil
1 ½ tsp dried mixed herbs
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 ½ cups water
400g lasagne pasta
3 cups white sauce (50g butter, 6 tbsp flour, 3 cups milk)
1 cup grated tasty cheese
Sauce: Heat oil in a large, heavy based saucepan and add onion, garlic and carrot. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft. Add courgettes, pepper, mushrooms and silverbeet as they are prepared, then tomatoes, seasonings and water. Simmer for at least an hour. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Grease a 30 x 20 cm baking dish, about 5 cm deep. Spread a little sauce on base, cover with a pasta sheet trimmed to fit. Cover with 2 – 3 cups sauce, then pasta, sauce etc, ending with pasta. Top with white sauce and grated cheese, being careful not to overfill dish. Cook 45 – 50 minutes at 160C. Leave to settle 10 – 15 minutes before serving.
I can't wait until we can add our own home-grown tomatoes and capsicums to it too! We seem to be eating a lot of mushrooms at the moment and I've been reading an interesting thread in the Forum about growing your own using a Mushroom Kit. It sounds like fun, I'm tempted to put it on my Christmas list! Talking of those, Ali is bending over backwards at the moment in his efforts to impress Santa. Last week he posted three beautifully decorated Christmas cards to 'Santa, The North Pole', one of which I didn't realise also included all his favourite rugby cards until it was too late. He was also going to bombard him with a fourth card which included coins, but luckily every available coin was already stashed safely in our money tin! I'm not quite sure what the Post Office does with all Santa's mail, but at least I'll be able to make sure he gets a reply thanks to a Vault hint I found called Magic of Santa for your Child!
One thing I won't be needing to buy for quite some time is chocolate! My mother-in-law won an enormous chocolate hamper worth over $200 at the local school gala raffle and gave us half of it! I couldn't believe her luck winning a prize like that, but then Noel came home with a story that topped it. Remember his friend Jon from a few blogs ago, who narrowly missed serious injury when his car went off the road? I reckon there must be someone looking after him lately – a man literally came in off the street last week and offered him $885,000 for his house. Jon and his wife couldn't believe he was serious but there was a contract waiting for him at the local estate agent that afternoon. Apparently their house was built on land which used to be part of the man's farm years ago and so keen was he to see his years out on a patch of his old turf, he was willing to pay that much for it – more than twice the amount Jon had paid for the house and land just a few years before! At this stage I think Jon and his wife are undecided – what would you do in that situation? They love their house and money isn't everything – then again, they could be instantly free of their current $250,000 mortgage and have quite a nice little nest egg left over! I'm not sure what I'd do either – not that it's likely to happen with our house and all its quirks!
I haven't really been anywhere this week in order to make a saving (although that's a saving in itself isn't it – not going anywhere!) but we did save 50% on our Christmas tree yesterday. We don't usually put it up this early, but the power was off all day due to an electricity upgrade so we thought it would be a nice idea to go and choose the tree and decorate it together. Our local garden centre was selling live Christmas trees at $20 each and we picked a perfect one for the job. Considering it normally costs $40 to buy a cut tree which only lasts a few weeks, we thought this was a much better idea. After Christmas we can simply re-pot it in a bigger bucket and bring it in again next year. While it will probably grow too big to bring inside after that, we will still have got two years' use out of a living tree, for half the price of an annual dead one! My adorable donkeys happily went off to their new home yesterday, so I guess that's another saving made on apples and carrots, though I shall miss their dreadful singing!
I discovered to my amazement a couple of days ago, that my youngest son is not the Sad Sally I thought he was (or should that be Sad Ali?!) He was off school with an upset tummy but by mid-morning he had made a miraculously recovery and was asking if we could go out somewhere. 'No Ali, I have to work,' I explained – 'besides, you're supposed to be sick!' Realising he was sprung, he grinned and then asked seriously, 'Mum, why do you have to work?' 'You know why I have to work', I replied and launched into the usual spiel about having to pay the bank for the house, our food, power, bills, blah blah'. 'I know that, but can't you just do Simple Savings?' he asked. 'What do you mean? We already do Simple Savings!' I said. 'That's what I mean!' he said impatiently. 'If we keep doing Simple Savings, we'll save heaps of money and you won't have to work any more, isn't that right?' Smart kid! What a shame he didn't come up with that idea five years ago when I was putting him into child care every day for two years while I went off to work for a princely take-home pay of $10 a week after child care fees were deducted. What on earth was I thinking?!