Friday, February 27, 2009


One of our staple snacks around here are cups of fruit juice jelly. Vegetarians avert you eyes.

I make a few batches per week and they are great for lunch boxes and just all round anytime snacks. The recipe I use is adapted from one I found on Pecan Bread, but I do it a little differently, mostly because I have been unable to find gelatin without preservative 220 in it, so I boil it to get rid of that. It is pretty simple, but it took me a while to find the right method for me so I thought I would share it here. Apart from the 220, which should boil off, if you use pure juice they are sugar and additive free.

Fruit Jelly Cups
2 tbs powdered gelatin
2 cups of water
2 cups of fruit juice (any flavour)

Boil one cup of water and mix with the gelatin in a saucepan. Boil rapidly for a few minutes. Remove from heat and add the second cup of cold water and the two cups of cold fruit juice. Stir until well combined and pour into molds. Set in fridge. Because it is made with mostly cold liquids it sets quite quickly.

So far I have only used bottled juices but I am looking forward to trying it with fresh pressed pear and apple juice.

Monday, February 23, 2009


This is two day's worth of yields. :-)

I also picked two more eggplants to give away, and then raided my next door neighbour's Chinese greens for stir fry for dinner. I left the eggplants in a plastic bag on their front door, but then I ran into her in the backyard! She picked heaps of the greens for me, and then was amused when I said I stir fry them together! Dinner tonight was awesomely simple - a jar of sweet and sour and the left over cold chicken for one dish, and Chinese greens with oyster sauce, ginger, garlic and onions in the other with a big pot of jasmine rice. Just a fantastic meal. Really, we could have gone without the sweet and sour chicken!

I made a joke with DH that if the economic downturn really hits, then I would buy another 10 kilo bag of rice, and a few seed packets for Asian greens! The grow quickly, and are full of fantastic nutrition and don't take up much space. A few very simple ingredients later and tasty stirfries for ever.

I think tomorrow night I might have to think of something yummy starting around eggplants and tomato!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Seasonal Tastes

I find myself examining my attitudes to food and to the cycle of life more and more as I develop as a person.

I have been thinking on the nature of food quite a lot lately, as most of us should know I love to cook. I love love love cooking, I love Indian cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Italian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, and all food from my Arabesque cookbook. Now that I have a vegetable patch, I am starting to get a greater sense for the Wheel of Life.

Not only is food good for you, but you're good for food. We take food into our bodies and process it into bits and pieces and return the goodness back into the soil. Things start to get very complicated when you include long distance travel, crop development and 'customer expectation' and mega-corporations ruling our food.

Now let's take that last sentence apart a bit.

Long distance travel. I'd love to be a locavore. It would make me happy. But in the same way that I can not feed my family sustainably from my own back yard, it makes sense to grow things in places where they grow well, and then trade/share/exchange in some mutually useful situation. But how far is too far? How far is far enough? Strawberries from California made their way to Perth supermarkets last year - and this calls into question 'customer expectation' and the lengths megacorporations will go to fulfil this imaginary need.

Crop development is also a fascinating cog in this rather awesome wheel. To read the Diggers paraphernalia, every megacorp is out to get us, via genetically modified, tasteless produce designed to survive the sale and look good rather than taste good, and to be ready for harvest all at once for best harvesting conditions... Diggers have a whole lot of very interesting views on megacorporations and how we select foods that reflect out choices as people.

I also want to examine 'customer expectation.' I've heard that word used to define a meaningless ideal that megacorporation managers want consumers to have. It's an excuse; far too often a market is developed simply by creating a need within the consumer. The most obvious case in point is the beauty industry, more specifically hair care. Customers originally needed to be trained to believe that hair needed to be washed often and with various special items for desirable characteristics. Previously, people made do with what they had. These days, there's a shampoo and matching conditioner for every imagined condition under the sun. I really do believe that the idea of 'customer expectation' is a phantom used by decision makers to make choices they have already made.

Now, all of this in relation to my own little patch of dirt and pumpkins, is that I am re-examining the way I select and prepare food. I've noticed a few things.

1) If I chose one style or cuisine, I could dump a full 50% of my kitchen utensils.
2) If I continue to grow my own vegetables, I expect to make more health conscious choices based around seasonal foods.
3) I am more aware of what vegetables are supposed to look and smell like.
4) My menus would be a lot simpler
5) My skills at cooking a particular set of foods would increase

My point is that we have been presented with such an array of choices in food that it is bewildering. Strawberries from California when WA could no longer grow their own! And they were so sweet! The advice of "select vegetables that are in season for cheap produce" is flawed simply by the virtue that not that many people know what produce is ripe in what season.

The myth of 'customer requirements' is that someone else, somewhere else, makes a choice that I will want strawberries out of season, and provides them to me in a windowless, airless supermarket where I can't even tell if it's raining, let alone what season it is, and then we get toasted by the media for demanding items out of season. We've been trained to expect foods at odd times of the year; we've been trained to cook five different cuisines a week using packets and sachets and jars, and we fail to realise that voluntary simplicity will pay us back a thousand fold.

I am re-learning my relationship to food. Last week the UK relaxed laws about the presentation of vegetables in supermarkets. Apparently 20% of vegetables were being dumped due to aesthetic reasons. This is unthinkable.

My biggest problem is that every night is a different cuisine. For example, the other night we had five spice chicken with stirfry vegies and rice. I made a big pot of rice to make fried rice for the next day. But the menu plan is for corned beef. Corned beef is traditionally served with potato, carrot, cabbage if you have it... but what do I do with the rice? The beef is next on the menu as it is in the fridge. When I selected the meat at the supermarket, what was ins eason to go with vegetables was the last thing on my mind. (To be honest, it was "That's cheap, I'll grab that again! Plus it's DH's favourite meal!)

When I cooked a month of Morrocan, Turkish and Lebanese food (from Arabesque, of course!) I purchased a number of items only used in those cuisines. When I cook Japanese foods, I also buy items only used in Japanese cooking. The same for Chinese, and Australian. If I selected one cuisine, and then stayed with that cuisine, I would lower my food costs, save myself bench space, and connect more fully within the cycle that I am beginning to perceive.

Our view of food is an astounding privilege. We need to be more cognisant of this fact so we can be more appreciative of the struggle and sacrifice that brings us full bellies.

And maybe, just sometimes, rethink some of ways we look at the food we eat.

Monday, February 16, 2009

MealPlan Monday - SarahP

Monday - Five Spice Chicken (stolen from VeganAboutTown and bastardized)
Tuesday - Corned Beef
Wednesday - Mother's making Quiche
Thursday - Sausages and salad
Friday - Dinner with friends
Saturday - Lentil Pie with Sweet Potato Topping (also stolen from VeganAboutTown)
Sunday - Nanna's 80th Birthday Party, so Leftovers!

Salmon, Pickle, and Goat Cheese Pancakes

This morning for breakfast I made pancakes at monkey moo's request. Also at monkey moo's request we had them topped with salmon*.

In addition to the salmon on mine I added some sliced gherkins (the only pickles I could find in the supermarket without preservatives or msg added!) and some shaved kasseri cheese (a hard cheese made from goat and sheep milk). Mmmm... is there anything that goes together better than gherkins and melty cheese?

It was very tasty, but it made me laugh to think that I seem to be displaying outragously cliche pregnant woman food preferences at the moment.

I haven't eaten gherkins for a while, (about a year), because of diet trials and restrictions, so I found the comercial pickles both way too acid and way too sugary in flavour. I am now on a mission to make my own.

*Actually her request was for tuna, which is her favourite food at the moment, but I have secretly replaced our tuna stash with salmon for the increased calcium content.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Present from the Next Door Neighbours!

I got a present! Yesterday, hanging over my fence was this! Our next door neighbour grew an awesome mess of cherry tomatoes, before she and her husband realised they don't actually eat tomatoes all that often - if at all. My kids, however, have already had about four kilos of free cherry tomatoes from these bushes, so when she said she was going to pull them soon, I said I'd pluck the remainders off the dead bits if she liked.

And obviously, she liked! Plus this will add more vegetable matter to the next no dig bed which I am currently planning. The next one is going to have tin sides rather than the haybales, and will use my parents-in-law's Christmas present of a trailor load of manure. Yay!

There will be a meet of some sort in March, if any one wishes to join us!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Rhubarb Champange

I found a recipe for Rhubarb Champagne, and since I happen to like Rhubarb, I thought I would give it a go.

The recipe is from Simplesavings, and is:

Rhubarb Champagne
20 cps cold water
1 lemon
3 1/2 cups Rhubarb
3 1/2 cups sugar
11 tablesp cider vinegar
Wash Rhubarb and Lemon don't peel. Cut up roughly. Add to water and sugar. (in a plastic bucket) Stand 48 hours no longer or the Rhubarb will sour.Strain,bottle and cap. Ready in 2 to 3 weeks. Makes 9 beer bottles.
Red Rhubarb = Pink Champagne Green Rhubarb = White Champagne

I gave it a try, hoping it would be nice. I used vanilla sugar, since that was all I had, and I was pretty excited to be making something again. The recipe was so simple, and I couldn't find my steriliser so the bottles were just cleaned and then rinsed with fresh water, and then used. I used grolsh bottles with new seals, and one that was crown capped.

And it was awesome!

The first thing I noticed when we popped the first grolsh bottle was the intense bubbles! One or two later bottles even fizzed out of the top! The next thing I noticed was the lovely scent of vanilla. A closer sniff also involved other complex flavours, and on pouring, the champagne was definitely champagne like, and pink! Everything we hoped for! The bubbles stayed as well, and the drink was a really nice lemonade with something else. It really does have to be tried to understand! It was fantastic. Very refreshing, not sickenly sweet, no chemical taste, and fresh.

I'm definitely making this one again!


Sarah P

Visits from Friends

We had a visit today from some close friends, for a bit of fun we let the kids loose in the vegie patch! Look at the haul!
Today was just so lovely. We had a nice cup of tea, the kids had lemonade jelly, and they ran around in circle screaming themselves hoarse. What a great way to enjoy the gentle weather!

Sarah P

Goat Yogurt

I have recently abandoned all powdered milks, and homogenised milk products (after reading, among other things, Sally Fallons Nourishing Traditions--a dedicated post likely coming this way soon) and have been trying to make yogurt out of raw goats milk. Since becoming pregnant I do actually heat the milk to 80 degrees c for a few minutes and then let it cool, as I currently have listeria phobia*, but this doesn't seem to alter the result at all. It seems there is not enough of something in the milk I am using, I suspect it needs more cream, and I end up with a very runny drinking type yogurt. Since I am the kind of person who likes very solid, more of a greek style yogurt I have been finding this a real barrier to my desire to eat the resulting product.

I think I may have found a solution in my last batch. To my litre of warm milk and starter I added two teaspoons of gelatin desolved in a little boiling water and then put the whole thing in the yogurt thermos and left it over night as usual.

After refrigeration the result was a much firmer yogurt that, with a little honey, was very edible.

*Ah, listeria phobia. So many huge precautions taken in order to avoid a disease that only affects 10 women in Australia per year, causing miscariges in aproimately 5. And yet, the stakes are so high, and the guilt factor from both outside and inside sources so intense that we just can't bring oursleves (me included) to not follow the rules 'just in case'.

Friday, February 06, 2009

What's in the Box? (with bonus recipe for bratwurst and sauerkraut)

Hi everyone,
I am back from my ISP enforced internetlessness and ready to start meal planning again. My Monday meal plans are more likely to be Tuesday meal plans from now on because Tuesdays are when I get my delicious box of mystery from food connect. I got my first box (a standard veggie box) last Tuesday and it was awesome. The produce was top quality fresh and tasty, and it looks like a standard size box is just about right for our family, although we are eating a lot of vegetables at the moment so we may go up to a family size box in the future.

First out of the box on Tuesday night came the potatoes. I am not sure what variety they were, but they were white skinned and very firm, so firm in fact that even after fully cooking they still had an almost crunchy quality to them--not undercooked, but not at all soggy. I used them to make one of my favourite dishes shown to me by one of my favourite friends, an Eastern European dish of potatoes, sauerkraut and pork. I did a makeshift version of the recipe that went like this:

several potatoes, diced in medium chunks;
an onion, sliced;
a big helping of sauerkraut (about half a jar);
5 or so gluten free bratwurst;
a very large dollop of extra virgin olive oil;
had I not forgotten I would have also added large amounts of crushed garlic.

I pre-cooked the bratwurst in a frypan while I chopped everything else, then chopped the bratwurst into small chunks. Threw everything into an oven dish and coated it liberally with the olive oil, then put it into a 200 degree (c) oven for about 45 minutes. Delicious!

Wednesday was gadogado style steamed veggies (broccoli, corn, carrot, beans, onion) with a sliced boiled egg each and peanut/cashew sauce.

Thursday, roast veggie stacks with a tomato oregano, basil and garlic sauce.

The veggie stack was made up of slices of roast potato, butternut pumpkin, red capsicum, zucchini, carrot and onion, and the tomato sauce was made from black/purpley tomatoes out of the box. Everything in that meal came out of the box except for the basil, which was from the garden, and the pumpkin and garlic which I had purchased previously.

Tonight we have had a request from monkey moo for chicken, so I am thinking chicken and veggie burgers (though moo has requested 'no veggies' for her please, so they may need to be hidden vegetables this time).

We still have from the box: beans; carrots; some beautiful big mushrooms; a bunch of silverbeet; cauliflower; a large chunk of ginger; a bunch and a half of broccoli; what looks like a daikon radish; onions; one potato; two tomatoes; a couple of sweet potatoes; a cos lettuce; and half a zucchini. Definitely enough for three more meals there. In addition to that list I also have on hand: garlic; a couple of red capsicums, 2 ears of corn; half a cabbage; and a bunch of spring onions. I am thinking some kind of silverbeet and sweet potato pie or fritatta for Saturday, and I will likely pickle the cabbage and radish. That leaves Sunday and Monday dinners plus a few veggie lunches. Any suggestions of the best way to utilise this delicious produce?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gardeny Goodness

The garden has been very busily growing, I am pleased to say! My pumpkins are trying to take over the world, and we have been harvesting corn, eggplants and beetroot. There's a big fast watermelon growing, and a big fat butter nut pumpkin coming along too. It's all good!

So, how is the tally going?

Eggplants: six small ones, but perfect quality and organic grown. I've seen these for about $4 for same quality but bigger, so I'll go with $2 per eggplant. They are going to be perfect stuffed in tomato sauce for dinner tonight (a middle eastern recipe) $12

Corn: We picked six ears so far, of which only two were perfect. I think we were a bit enthused about picking the others, but it's all a learning process, and we ate them anyway. Corn is expensive at the moment. $1.65 each for corn, so $9.90 of corn already.

Beetroot: $2.88 each apparently in some places, but I shall take it as $2.88 per bunch, and say we've pulled a bunch of them. Some have died, and because I planted them badly or wrong, they're waiting for me to pull and get rid of them. I'll do better next year! I like them tiny.

Tomatoes: The Roma tomatoes have started to ripen, but I never get them inside the house! The kids eat them out of my hands before I can get up the stairs! So, um... there's been about ten of them, all of them about $100ish grams, so a kilo of Romas, $7.18. Gosh.

Garden was started on the 13th of November.
Cost of Garden: $278
Dec 15th: Saved: $2
Total Cost $276

February 5th: $31.96
Total cost: $244.04