Grow Your Own, Make Your Own

a journey of discovery

1 Comment

Kale Pesto: super super food

Kale is so good for you. It is high in iron and calcium, high in Vitamins A, C and K, fibre and antioxidants. It is one of those vegies that you hear about but may never have tasted or cooked with it before. There are a couple of varieties readily available including Tuscan black kale (also known as Lacinto or Dinosaur Kale) and Curly Kale.

 As I am yet to grow my own kale, I have only ever bought it. In a bunch. A great, big, huge bunch. Unless I put it in every meal that I cook for the next 2 weeks, how on earth am I going to get through this bunch? Then the idea came to me!


Here’s the recipe:

Half bunch of Curly Kale

¼ cup pine nuts

Olive oil (see note)

Garlic infused olive oil or small clove garlic crushed

1/2  lemon

1.    Place the pine nuts in a small frypan and lightly toast over a medium heat. Allow to cool.

2.    Wash the kale leaves thoroughly. Cut out the tough vain from the middle of each leaf. Place in your food processor and whiz it up until very finely chopped.

3.    Add the pine nuts and a small drizzle of olive oil. Whizz up then slowly add a little bit more olive oil until the mixture starts to come together. Add a tablespoon of garlic oil or the crushed garlic. Squeeze the lemon into the mixture and give one final quick whizz.

Note: I like my pesto to be a little bit chunky so I tend to use less oil and whizz for less time but if you want a smooth pesto, use more oil and whizz for longer.

I’ve also made this with toasted, slivered almonds which was very yummy too.

4.    Place the mixture into a clean jar and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Kale pesto mini-muffins

Use it on everything! I like to put little blobs of it on quartered boiled eggs, steamed asparagus and parmesan cheese. You can add it to salads, muffins or pasta dishes. It is not as potent as basil pesto so I find I can use more of it on lots of things! The munchkin also loves it!

Have you ever tried different kinds of pesto? Which one is your favourite?



Handmade cushion cover – a farewell gift: part 2

I have borrowed my Mum’s sewing machine this week and have spent the past couple of evenings whizzing away at it to complete Janet’s cushion cover before she goes to live in the UK for a year.

 We had a new fabric shop open in town a few weeks ago so I went hunting for some beautiful material. I didn’t have to look too hard. There is so much beautiful fabric out there! I chose a black and cream theme and decided to get some patterned pieces and some plain pieces, as I explained in part 1. I probably should have looked around for some pre-loved fabric to use but seeing as this is my first experience sewing for ever, I decided to go with a safe option of fabrics that I could easily match and had the same thickness and texture.

 1.    I decided to make a 40cm cushion cover so I cut 4 pieces of each type of fabric into 12cm squares. This leaves a 1cm seam line.

J layout

2.    Cut 16 squares the same size out of cream cotton flannelette, and pin them to the backs of the coloured squares.

3.    Quilt each square with a simple criss-cross with black cotton leaving a 1 cm seam line.

4.    Using the layout photo as a guide, pin the quilted squares together. Join 4 squares to form a row and sew together. Make sure you sew the squares so that the seam comes out through the front (see photo). This will give you the rag style look on the front.

 J Piecing front together

 5.    Iron the middle seams down flat to make it easier to join the rows together

6.    Pin your first row to the next one making sure that the vertical seam lines match up. Sew each row to the next to form your front square which will be 4 little squares across and 4 little squares down.

 7.    Using a very sharp pair of scissors, snip each exposed hem on the front of the cover to just above the seam line. Space the snips about 1 cm apart to create a ragged fringe.

J Stage of sewing front together

 8.    Next, get the black fabric for the back of the cushion cover. Cut to 43 cm wide x 50 cm long. Cut in half lengthways. You should now have 2 pieces that will form the back envelope.

 9.    Fold one short end on each piece and iron flat. Fold over again and iron flat. Sew along the folded strip to form a hem.

J Cut back pieces

10.  Pin the back to the front with the right side facing in. Make sure your 2 black pieces overlap at the back by about 3-5 cm. This will be where you insert your cushion. Sew a seam around the outside edge of the cover to enclose. Turn the right way around through the opening at the back and VOILA! Cushion cover is finished! Pop a cushion insert inside and admire your creation.

J Finished cushion cover

 11.  To finish off the raggy front, wash the cover, line dry and give it a good shake. This should help the front seams to fray further and will finish it off nicely.   

 If you decide to give this cushion cover a go, I’d love to see your photos! You can post them on the Grow Your Own, Make Your Own Facebook page or tag me in Instagram @growyourown or even just email a pic to me at



1 Comment

Handmade cushion cover – a farewell gift: part 1

My dear inspirational work friend, Janet, is leaving these shores to travel and live in the UK for a year. I’m excited for her and upset at the same time. I will definitely miss her but I also know that this sort of experience is really life changing in many ways. I’m a teensy bit jealous too as I love travelling and would love to see the UK and Europe, but I have had my fair share of travelling journeys and I know that at this moment I am supposed to be here (not to say we won’t do a little short-term travelling as a family sometime).

 As I thought about this I wondered what sort of parting gift I might be able to give her. She is going to be limited in what she can carry on the plane – no heavy or bulky items. So that rules out books, journals, dinner sets or irons. 

I thought about my own journeys to other countries where I had stayed for a substantial amount of time and I really valued the little, sentimental things from home – the photos, a special ornament, a bottle of tabasco sauce. These sorts of things can help to ease the transition to a new place and act as reminders of the friends and family back home.

So I have decided to make her a cushion. Well a cushion cover actually. That way she can pack it flat in her suitcase and buy a cushion filler when she gets to London. It’s going to be a rag style patchwork. Given the fact that I haven’t sewn anything with a machine since I was in high school, I thought the rag style would be more forgiving.

The best bit about this cushion cover is that some of the patches will be patterned and some will be plain but adorned with the names and messages from our fellow work colleagues. Over the past week I’ve asked each of our workmates to sign a part of the patch using fabric markers. It is already looking great.

I’m going to use a pattern I saw on the Australian version of Better Homes and Gardens TV show ages ago. I have been trying to track it down but no luck yet so I’ve done a bit of internet searching and will piece together a couple of different patterns to get the result I am looking for. I will post pictures of the process and the final cover when it’s finished. Wish me luck!!

Have you ever lived in a different country to where you grew up? What helped you transition as you got used to the different culture?


Leave a comment

Sauce Day

Sauce day. Tomato day. Passata day. Whatever it’s called it is always a good day.

I married into an Italian family. The town where I live has a strong Italian culture and days like this happen all over. Once a year, families get together and make tomato sauce, or passata. We’re not talking sugar filled ketchup here. This is the stuff we use to make rich, delicious bolognese and pizza sauce.

Depending on the weather in the lead up to sauce day, the tomatoes are usually gathered by hand. There is a big tomato farm about 40 km out of town. Hundreds of cars gather early in the morning at the designated meeting place and then we all follow the farmer out to his fields, armed with buckets. The next couple of hours are spent picking buckets and buckets of juicy, sun-ripened roma tomatoes. We then pay the farmer per bucket and take our spoils back to GH’s uncle’s place.

Unfortunately this year, due to the extreme heat wave this summer, many of the tomato crops were destroyed. We had to pre-order and pick up the tomatoes at the market, and a big thanks goes to Uncle R and Aunty S for organising the 230kgs of tomatoes we used this year and for allowing us to use their home to make the sauce.

Once the tomatoes have been picked (or picked up!) they are thrown (gently of course!) out onto a big tarp on the lawn and washed down. We then put them into big tubs and fill with fresh water. From here they go to the cutting table. Everyone who has a spare pair of hands gathers at the cutting table and we proceed to cut each tomato into smallish pieces ready to go through the crusher.

Then two people work the crusher, pouring the tomatoes through what looks like a meat mincer. The juice flows into a tall container with a tap at the bottom. The tomatoes go through the crusher 3 times to extract all of the juice and pulp. The skins and seeds remain in the waste which goes out to the chook pen. The older chooks leave the scraps but the younger ones, the naïve first years, run eagerly to see what prize they have won. By the end of the day, they’ve had enough of that strange red stuff that seems to keep coming and coming!

Once the tall bucket has been filled with the juice and pulp, salt is added, followed by a thorough stirring. We then put the mixture into long-neck bottles typically used in beer making. The tap at the bottom of the container fits nicely into the opening of the bottles and ensures that none is wasted. The bottles then move to the capping table where metal tops are pressed on. Once all of the chopping and crushing has been done, and the bottles have been filled and capped, they are taken over to the fire pit. Two 44-gallon drums lay over the fire pit with their sides cut open. The bottles are gently placed into the barrels until they reach the top, and then the barrels are filled with water.

We light the fire and wait for the water to reach boiling point, then allow the bottles to boil for 45 minutes to an hour, after which time the fire is extinguished and the bottles remain in the hot water bath for another hour or so. They are then divvied out to the family and go on to the much higher purpose of making beautiful, rich and tasty bolognese or pizza sauce.

I was privileged to receive Nonna’s bolognese recipe after my husband and I got engaged. I felt like the mysteries of the world had been revealed to me! It is still the best sauce I have ever tasted and I feel very lucky to be able to cook it at home with homemade passata that I helped to make!

Do you gather with your family for a traditional day of making something? What do you make and where did the tradition come from?