DIY Compost Bin

If you haven’t seen War On Waste by ABC, I highly recommend you take the time to do so. It gives you a look at how wasteful we are as a society, but also an idea of what an individual can do to change that. In one particular episode, it was pointed out how much food waste ends up in a landfill, decomposing and producing methane. No longer wanting to be part of the problem, I decided to create my own compost bin out of an unused storage container.

 

 

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Using a drill, holes were created around the bin and in the lid to allow air in.

 

 

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The bottom of the lid was sawn off to create an access door at the bottom of the compost bin. I used duct tape and velcro to secure the “door” to the bin. I plastic tray is placed near the door to capture any loose “juices” that may run out of the compost (and would need to be thrown back in).

 

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The compost bin required access from the top to dump in materials, so using a hacksaw a makeshift “lid” was created. The original (grey) lid was then hot glued in place.

 

 

 

Chock-full of Choc Cookies

Recently, I went through my tried and tested cookie recipe and decided to mix it up a bit. I added some Cocoa powder to the dry mix to now make the cookies a dark brown colour and added white chocolate chips. I was already a little suspicious of this batch since I found it wasn’t as “wet” as past batches, and I was able to easily roll the cookie dough with my hands.

After this batch came out of the oven, I had a very delicious BUT very crunchy cookie… which was not expected since we’re usually going for softer cookies. It made the larger and thicker cookies a lot more difficult to get through… which had my son slightly concerned since his front teeth had finally come back and he wanted them to stay around.

When my friend and his wife came over for a visit, it wasn’t until I was explaining the recipe that it dawned on me what I had left out of this particular batch…. eggs!

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Crunchy Version

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (225g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • one third cup cocoa powder
  • 1 pack of choc chips (about 200g)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Cream the sugars, butter and vanilla in one bowl and mix the other dry ingredients together in another bowl. Pour the sugar mix into the dry ingredients and mix together to form the cookie dough. Then add the choc chips and mix thoroughly. Spoon the mix onto a baking tray (that’s been lined with baking paper), and bake for about 15 minutes.

During this process, I went from cookies that were probably too soft to ones that were hard (but manageable if you create thinner cookies). Once I realised the eggs were missing, I had to run another batch… but just using a single egg.

New Favourite Version

Same as above… but add 1 egg to the wet ingredients.

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DIY Fidget Spinners

These 2 were put together with skate bearings and zip ties. The bearings took about a month to arrive after ordering them on eBay (10x =~$3au). To ensure that they were kept together as tight as possible, I used a pair of pliers to pull the end of the zip tie. Despite my efforts, It is still possible to pop the centre bearing out… but it can be easily popped back into place. The point where the zip tie joins adds a fraction of extra weight to that area, which will cause imbalance and wobbling… this was more noticeable on the 3 bearing spinner but not so much on the 7.

Since my son wanted the ability to balance the spinner on his finger, I decided to create some finger pads using what I had available. On this occasion, I thought some bottle caps would do the trick. Using a box cutter, I carefully sliced off the sides of the bottle caps leaving the top which would be used as the finger pad. I then took one of the sides, trimmed it and squished it together using the pliers… that would then serve as the centre pin for the finger pads. The finger pads were then hot glued into place.

Although I prefer using my hot glue gun for most things, it wasn’t the best solution for this case. On my son’s first try, he managed to snap one of the finger pads off. When I get around to reattaching it, I’ll mix a small batch of epoxy glue instead.

ANZAC biscuits… not burnt! :D

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Not one to give up after initial failure, I gave these yummies another go. Although the last batch was from an authentic ANZAC biscuit recipe from a Gallipoli veteran, we decided to go back to a previous recipe since we prefer a softer, chewier version.

Link to the recipe

The first big change that was made was to turn the oven temperature down to 160º, and the trays were lined with a silicone sheet. Baking time was kept at 15 minutes with a tray swap half way to ensure all were being baked evenly. Since we were after soft and chewy, brown sugar was omitted and replaced with raw sugar (I didn’t have caster on hand)… and they turned out just the way we like them.

My Choc Chip Cookies

This is a recipe I’ve been tinkering with for the last few years. The original contained way more sugar than I felt was necessary, but removing ingredients required replacing with others… and a lot of failed batches. This is the current recipe…

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (or 200 g)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pack of choc chips (about 200g)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Cream the sugars, butter and eggs in one bowl and mix the other dry ingredients together in another bowl. Pour the sugar mix into the dry ingredients and mix together to form the cookie dough. Then add the choc chips and mix thoroughly. Spoon the mix onto a baking tray, and bake for about 15 minutes.

Edit: since this post and several more batches, the recipe has made these changes:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 and 1/3 cups flour

DIY Fish Batter

IMG_8070.JPGAt the end of my street lies what seems to be a very popular restaurant that serves up traditional Fish and Chips. If we ever go past on any given evening, you can expect to find a decent sized queue of people patiently waiting for their order. We have never eaten at this establishment and most likely never will… I can’t justify spending approximately $30AU for two meals when I can just do it myself for a hell of a lot cheaper.

It’s taken a bit of trial and error, but this recipe and method are now working for me.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup water

Mix the dry ingredients together. Then add the milk and water slowly while beating until the batter is smooth. Dip your fish into the batter and then allow the excess to drip off. I have a deep fryer in my kitchen, but if you don’t, a pot of oil on the stovetop will suffice… you’ll just be guestimating the actual temperature of the oil. Set the temp to 170°C-190°C. Using a pair of tongs, gently lower the fish into the oil until the batter forms a proper casing around the fish. Once that happens, you can drop the fish in. If you’re using a deep fryer, doing this will stop the fish from melding to the deep fry basket. Allow it to cook for a good 4 minutes, remove from the heat and soak as much of the oil off the fish as you can with paper towels. Season and serve… we’re ok with just a squeeze of lemon juice on the fish. Give it a go!

the original fish batter recipe

Masterpiece Pizza Vol. V

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This photo was taken on 21st June… so it took a little while to remember exactly what the toppings were for this particular ‘za. Tomato paste base, onions, cheese, chicken, bacon, tomato slices and celery leaves topped with the usual BBQ sauce and mayonnaise. A couple of friends have gotten me into celery leaves lately… and it worked a treat on this!

Fix it! Blender Repair

Thanks to a poor quality and my own stupidity… I had worn out the plastic gear on my blender. The gear had worn away to the point of where it could no longer spin the blender blades. My fault because since I got the blender, I would simply tilt the pressure to the side with the job switch instead of applying force directly downwards. The tilting would have made the contact between the gear and blades uneven, causing the rubber and plastic to wear away.

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Grinding by hand with a mortar and pestle took far too long

 

The replacement gear was going to cost less than $3AU on eBay, but as per usual, it would take about a month to arrive…. and I had coffee to grind!

 

 

I needed a temporary fix until the replacement part arrived. I’ve been collecting plastic bread clips for another project and thought I could use the plastic to repair the gear. I carefully cut 4 tabs that were to be glued onto the gear. These tabs will then catch the blade and get it spinning again. Using my trusty glue gun, the tabs were glued into place.

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After allowing the glue to dry (about 10 minutes), I popped the gear back into the blender and gave it a test blend. It worked! 1 tab did look a little weak before blending and subsequently came off, but was reattached soon after. And the coffee was now nicely ground. This fix came just in time as well… I had mayonnaise to make.

Lego Fidget Spinner

Since my son has been going to school, I’ve had a different way of handling each coming “fad”. When he wanted to buy Pokemon cards because all the other kids were trading, I took him away from the collection aspect of the cards and introduced him to the actual card game. Now that fidget spinners are the latest craze, I refused to give into the hype…. the last thing the world needs is another poor excuse to sell bits of plastic.

So an idea was seeded into Owen’s young imagination… why don’t you make your own “fidget spinner” with what you have available? I let him know that I had seen people making their own spinners using Lego. I then dived into his collection of Lego and created my first version of the “spinner”… something that worked (badly) but gave him enough fuel for his creative juices to come up with something better. After playing around with a few different versions he managed to come up with something that spins quite well (but not as good as ball bearings).

 

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Owen spinning and posing

 

 

Today’s School Lunch: Sushi Rolls

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When it comes to school lunch, I now leave it in the hands of my son… usually. But even he gets tired of his own sandwiches at some point (which is going to happen when “peanut butter” is the only sandwich you’re willing to make). To give him a break, I helped make sushi for him. And to reduce the amount of mess that’s bound to happen in his lunchbox, I opted to just halve the roll and wrap it in sandwich paper… and a soy sauce fish thrown in.

The sushi rice was actually prepared a week ago and has been sitting in the fridge awaiting its next use. I spoon out the amount needed into a bowl and reheat the rice in the microwave… and it’s just as good as having prepped it the day of.

Owen’s sushi of choice is the California roll, but he’s not fond of avocados. So in this version, cheese replaces the avocado and is joined with the usual suspects… cucumber, “seafood stick” and mayonnaise. Hopefully, we’ll have an empty lunchbox this afternoon!

 

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Exactly the same sushi, but cut into pieces.