Saturday, May 29, 2010

Purple Pizza Eater

I'm so excited about this pizza, I had to tell you about it! Robbie and I had both had long, wearying days ... so we wanted to treat ourselves to a special dinner. So, while he threw a balloon back and forth, back and forth with Nelle, I got busy in the kitchen.

I decided to do my pizza dough by hand this time ... quite therapeutic, really. Mix the dry, mix the wet, add one to the other and knead, knead, knead. I did this just long enough that the dough looked smooth and happy, and I'd forgotten all about that 8 am lecture I'd given ... so long ago ...

We were getting hungry, so I popped the oven onto its lowest setting and let my dough rise for 30 min or so in there, with the pizza stone warming at the same time. Then I punched my puffy dough down and got to work on the Purple Toppings. I must say, my pizza did work ... even with my slacker methodology. But you might want to try the original method on my Pizza Night posting if you're not so desperate as we were ...

For the Pizza Monster in all of us:

"He was a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater"
                                     -From "The Purple People Eater" written and performed by Sheb Wooley

Purple Pizza Eater

Serves 2


1/2 of pizza dough recipe

1/2 of a medium red onion, finely sliced
1/4 of a small red cabbage, finely sliced
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil + some for drizzling
1 1/2 small crispy apples, finely sliced
1 - 1 1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
a pinch of dried dill
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 220C, 450F (hot!)

2. Roll out your dough till it's quite thin and set it on your floured pizza stone or tray. Drizzle the pizza base with olive oil and use your hand to rub it over the base uniformly.

3. Add your apple slices in a layer over the base and then add your cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

4. While the pizza's baking, heat the 3 Tbs oil in a frying pan and saute the red onions until tender (about 5 min). Then add the cabbage, and saute until that's just tender too. Don't let it get too floppy - the semi-crisp texture will be great on the top of the pizza. Add the dill and mix. Remove from heat.

5. Pull your pizza out of the oven when the cheese is melted and browned and the edges of the crust are slightly puffy and golden. Yum. Sprinkle your onion/cabbage concoction over the top of your pizza ... cut into slices ... add salt and pepper to taste... and serve with a simple salad and a cold beer!

PS. Good news is that red cabbage has heaps of Vitamin C in it, perfect for lingering colds ...

Treat yourself!
Amanda xx

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sneaky Vegan Chocolate Cookies

Amazing photo by Dylan of SBM Photography 

The other night our gorgeous friends brought us Indian for dinner ... and even though we all stuffed ourselves silly on palak paneer and garlic naan and pakoras, well, I still fancied something sweet and chocolatey after. So I pulled out this recipe because it's super fast and easy and amazingly good. It's also the recipe I go to when I want to bake but have no eggs or butter in the house (which, you'd be surprised ... ) I loved seeing everyone's surprise when I came back from the kitchen with a plate of warm cookies. Which were promptly devoured.

I call these cookies sneaky because - no one would ever guess they're vegan and because you can disappear into the kitchen for 15 minutes and re-emerge with cookies.

But they come with a very serious warning:
so maybe they're also sneaky because they seem to find their way out of the cookie jar ...

Sneaky Vegan Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook

Makes about 24

1/2 c jam*
1 c raw sugar
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil (or canola oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c + 2 Tbs raw cocoa powder
1 1/2 c unbleached plain flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

* I have successfully used: strawberry jam, apricot jam, ginger marmalade, sweet plum sauce, cranberry sauce (leftover from Thanksgiving), and mango jam. So, what you use is pretty much up to you!

**And try to use organic ingredients when you can.

Preheat the oven to 160C, 325F.

1. Mix the jam, sugar, oil and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until well-combined. Add all the dry ingredients and mix.

2. The texture of your cookie dough will be a little strange, but don't worry. Once it's all mixed well, pick up a Tablespoon-sized glob of dough in your hand, roll it around to make a ball, and then smush it flat between your palms.

3. Put the cookies onto a greased or baking-paper-lined tray. I like to make little forkprints in the top (like what you do in traditional American peanut butter cookies), but that's not necessary.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 min. Don't leave them too long or they'll dry out and lose their chewiness. Take them out and cool on a rack. They'll feel a bit floppy, but they'll solidify a bit as they cool.

5. Enjoy hot, cold, with icing sugar sprinkled over them, whatever your heart desires. Store them in an airtight container and they'll keep for a week or so (if you can resist)

Amazing photo by Dylan of SBM Photography 

How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients in these, and all in all 2 dozen cost me just over $3 to make. The flour was $0.66, the oil was $1.02, the sugar was $0.44 and the jam I'd made myself (or was something I needed to use up). The cocoa powder was about $1.30. And that's about it! Good stuff.

I think after all this talking about chocolate cookies I might just have to have one ...

Amanda xx

Monday, May 24, 2010

Coconut Chest Rub

Well, the damp chilly weather of late has gotten to me ... I guess it's my first cold of the season. And that means thick socks and hot soup and green tea and olive leaf extract and vitamin C and decongestant ... (and maybe the occasional moan for sympathy ... )

One of the things I remember about getting sick as a kid was getting some Vicks rubbed onto my chest and upper back. That super-strong smell just cleared out your whole head. Unfortunately, that particular product of my childhood days has turpentine and petroleum products in it- not really what I'm into these days.

So, I made my own version.  It did clear up my sinuses and make me feel nice, but just a note: it seems to require more regular application than the storebought version. But given how good coconut oil is for your skin, your chest will probably appreciate it ...

And if you have any good cold remedies, please send them my way!!

Coconut Chest Rub

1 heaping spoonful extra virgin coconut oil, in solidified state
3 drops eucalyptus essential oil
3 drops lemon essential oil
*3 drops peppermint essential oil

*my first batch didn't include this, but my next one did!!
As always, remember to keep essential oils out of the reach of children, and try to use organic ingredients when you can.

1. Mix them together in a small pot and rub into your chest and upper back.

2. If it's coldish in the house (say, less than mid-20c C or 60s F) you can keep this out at room temperature. Otherwise, put it in a cool place (like the fridge or entryway) so the coconut oil doesn't liquify.

How much did this cost me?

Probably around $0.50 per batch. The coconut oil cost me around $0.30 and the oils were probably the same as I used such small amounts.

Better go for now, I hear a cup of tea calling me ... 
Amanda xx

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pizza Night!

Amazing picture by Dylan at SBM Photography

A few weeks ago, Robbie was away for a couple nights, (to a tropical island, I might add ... ) so Nelle and I decided to have a girls' night in involving a viewing of New Moon with some friends, some homemade pizzas and some of Candice's famous pumpkin pie. And I negotiated a pizza - for - photos exchange with Dylan next door ... hmmm ... I don't think he minded! I'll resist reviewing the movie for you, but we'll just say the pizzas were waaaaaaaay better ...

Which brings me to the important topic of pizza. Now for Brisbanites who haven't tried the UQ Pizza Caffe, or Pizzeria 1889 at the Barracks (which has a Wed night special that is not to be missed), I'll explain ... Thin, crispy pizza bases with beautiful, fresh toppings, this is what I'm talking about.

I've searched long and hard for a recipe for a wholemeal-based crust that turns out light and crispy, and for a recipe well suited for lazy cooks (ahem, 'practical') like myself. Well, this is not that, because I haven't yet found one! (If you do, you are my hero and please share!)

But saying that, this really wasn't too much work, particularly if you have a number of people (including kids) around to help out. And we raided fridges for toppings so the whole thing really wasn't too expensive either. And most importantly, the crust was the closest I've made to my favourite pizzas out.

This recipe was adapted from a Bill Granger article in Delicious magazine (sadly I tore the page out so have no idea when from!)

 Amazing photo by Dylan at SBM Photography

Pizza Night!

Serves 4

3 1/3 c unbleached plain flour
1 1/2 T raw honey
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 T sea salt
300mL warm water
50mL extra virgin olive oil

1/2 c tomato paste
random veggies, sliced as thinly as you can
random fresh herbs, torn
1-2 c grated cheese (whatever you like!)

1. Put all the dough ingredients into a breadmaker and hit 'dough' function.
Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another bowl. Then add the wet to the dry. Mix in the bowl with your hands, then tip the dough out and knead it a bit on the benchtop until it starts to smooth out. Then, once it's smooth, knead another 5 min. Take this time to do a quick meditation. Make the dough into a ball, rub it with oil, put it in a dish and cover it with a clean tea towel. Set it in a warm place and let it rise 1-2 hrs until doubled.

2. Take the dough out of the breadmaker or bowl, knead it a bit, then divide into 4 balls. Roll out the balls into 30 cm (10in) circles and place onto a pizza tray - don't forget to sprinkle some polenta on the tray first to help prevent sticking!

3. Preheat the oven to 220C, 430F. (Hot!)

4. Spread a layer of tomato paste onto each pizza crust (or not - olive oil is a great base layer too).

5. Spread a layer of veggies*
*Thicker or tougher veggies (like onions or capsicums) you may need to cook a little bit first.

6. Spread a layer of cheese.

7. Bake in preheated oven for about 10-12 min until crust is golden and slightly puffy and cheese is browned. Pull the pizzas out of the oven and let them cool slightly.

8. Add fresh herbs and salt and pepper and drizzle each pizza with olive oil. Voila!

Great combos
Spinach + garlic + mushrooms + parmesan
Super-thin zucchini slices + mozzarella
Tomato slices + basil + mozzarella
Potatoes + olive oil + rosemary + lightly cooked onions
or recreate your favourite pizzas from restaurants!

Amazing photo by Dylan at SBM Photography

So costing these pizzas is a bit tricky, because it will depend a lot on what toppings and cheeses you use and have on hand. But needless to say, it's cheaper and healthier than eating out!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend!
Amanda xx

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Easiest Meditation Ever

Meditation is so good for us. I use it to reduce stress, put things in perspective, take a time out, rest my busy brain, and improve my mood. But rarely do I feel like I have the time to sit down myself for a quiet 20 min or so ...

When I was pregnant a friend of mine gave me the great book Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children (thanks Anna!!) ... and one of the things I remember was that you can meditate while you do anything.

Our all-natural broom for 'Sweeping the Deck'

So here are my common meditations:

Washing the Dishes
Wash the dishes. As you do, focus on the task - try to think only about washing the dishes. If you have lots of other random thoughts enter your mind, that's ok ... but don't spend too long on them. I often repeat in my mind 'washing the dishes ... washing the dishes ... washing the dishes ... and so on'

Walking up the Stairs
Focus on walking up the stairs, and repeat to yourself 'walking up the stairs ... walking up the stairs ... '

Folding Laundry
Focus on folding or hanging laundry, and repeat to yourself 'folding the laundry ... folding the laundry ... '

Waiting in Line
Focus on standing tall and straight, don't get frustrated about how long it's taking, just repeat to yourself 'waiting in line ... waiting in line ... waiting in line ...'

And so on ...

I try to choose a menial task that I otherwise don't enjoy ... this way I feel like I'm accomplishing something good for myself at the same time as doing the task.

And you know those days when Little Helper uses 'whiney voice' alllllllllll day? And is permanently attached to your pantleg? Those are the days you need this meditation. Do it.

Amanda xx

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pickled Ginger

The local organic shop has lots of lovely, youngish ginger at the moment ... so I bought a few handfuls. I've got a real love for ginger's warmth and spiciness, for gingerbread and tea and ginger beer ... but on the occasion I don't use it all, I've got to come up with some storage ideas ...

Fresh ginger, ready for its next life ...

One way to store ginger (when you've got lots) is by popping it into the freezer ... then you just pull it out, grate what you need, and put it back in. But I've got an even better way to keep ginger around ...

My all-time favourite is pickled ginger. I'm the girl who circles like a vulture over the table at Japanese ... waiting to see if anyone I'm dining with isn't a fan. Lucky for me, my Robbie often donates his - in exchange for my wasabi (fair deal, I reckon!). If you're a veggie, you can't beat pickled ginger on an avocado roll.

Pickled Ginger


200g fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
3/4 c rice vinegar (but you can use white wine vinegar in a pinch)
3 Tbs raw sugar
3/4 c water
1-2 small jars with vacuum-pop lids (like the ones you buy jam in)

1. Peel the ginger, rub it with the salt and leave in a covered bowl overnight.

2. The next day, wash a small jar or two in hot, soapy water and dry in the oven for 15 min at 140C (280F).

3. Use a mandolin or cheese slicer to slice the ginger as thinly as possible. Blanch the ginger slices for about 30 sec in boiling water, then drain and pat dry with a clean towel.

4. Put the vinegar, sugar and water in a small saucepan and gently bring to a simmer. Stir to make sure the sugar dissolves.

5. Carefully pull your jars out of the oven and while they're still hot fill them with ginger slices. Top up with your vinegar mix. Put the lid on and tighten. If you do this all while the vinegar and jars are hot, your lid should vacuum seal itself as it cools (making a lovely and gratifying popping sound).

6. As with all pickled things, this is best left a week or two before you eat it. I usually store mine in the fridge, where it keeps for ages. The ginger will probably turn pinkish, but probably not to the extent of commercial varieties.

How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients in my batch ... the ginger was $19/kg so about $4. I used white wine vinegar that I'd gotten on special (I stocked up - bought 6 at once!!) for $6 for 1L. So that was around $1. The sugar was probably about $0.20. I save jars, so that was no cost at all! So, my jar of organic pickled ginger cost me $5.20 and lasts me ages.

PS. Just ate the dish in the above photo as I wrote this posting. May it rest in peace.

Amanda xx

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Extra Lovely Moisture Oil

We woke up this morning and it was cold, cold, cold! Snuggle under the covers cold. Hot tea in a mug cold. Blanket around your shoulders cold. It's a change of seasons here, though without the leaves turning and falling ... and the days don't shorten too much ... but winter is definitely on its way to Queensland.

Humidity gone, it's time to be diligent with the moisturiser ... and this year I've got a great one. It's actually my favourite ever - I love the feel of it, the smell of it, and it's got really lovely ingredients that are great for my skin. Plus what better way to feel summery than with a skin treat that uses sunshiney dried marigolds!

Dried calendula flowers

*For those of you non-Australians out there who are thinking I'm a huge wimp, Queensland houses typically don't have insulation or heating ... meaning- eek! - inside temperatures are often quite close to outside temperatures ... and I spend a lot of time curled up in my sleeping bag!

Extra Lovely Moisture Oil

Adapted from Bodyworks: Restoring Wellbeing with Homemade Lotions, Potions and Balms

1/4 c cold-pressed apricot kernel oil
1 Tbs coconut oil
1 tsp dried calendula flowers or tea (these are marigolds, you might even have them in your garden!)
3 vitamin E oil capsules (available at pharmacies)
6 drops lavender essential oil
3 drops frankincense essential oil (optional)

1. Put the calendula into a dish and pour the apricot kernel oil over it. Leave to infuse for 15 min or so. Then strain the oil (like you do with tea) into a glass bottle.

2. Poke a hole in the vitamin E capsules with a skewer and squeeze them out into the bottle with the oil.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix or shake, and use a little bit at a time on face and hands and body. (It's an oil, so careful you don't accidently pour too much out!)

Some notes about making your own beauty products:

1. Always keep essential oils out of the reach of children.
2. Make small batches and replace every few weeks or month - we don't use the same preservatives as commercial brands (a good thing, but our beauty products won't last as long)
3. Try to store your beauty products in dark jars or in the cupboard out of light or in the fridge.
4. Always use clean utensils and a clean working area.


How much did this cost me?

The oils cost me around $1.50 and I estimate the calendula, essential oils and vitamin E capsules were $0.50 or less. So, around $2 for a beautiful moisturising oil to use on face and body.

PS I got my calendula flowers at a natural foods shop in Brisbane called Fundies .

I hope you enjoy it!
Amanda xx

Monday, May 10, 2010

Surely It's Good for You Chocolate Sherbet

I never used to make my own ice cream ... until I started looking at the ingredients on the back of the ones at the big supermarkets. Check this out: "buttermilk, cream, concentrated skim milk, sugar, glucose syrup, whey powder, emulsifier #471, vegetable gums #410 and #407a, halal gelatine, natural flavour, colour #160b." Ewww!!!

So, I started making it myself. And this is my most favourite recipe - because
a) it's really easy
b) it's low fat
c) it's chocolate

Need I say more?

Amazing photo by Dylan at SBM Photography

Even if you've never ever made ice cream-ish desserts before, give this one a try - it's that easy.

Surely It's Good for You Chocolate Sherbet

Adapted from Ice Cream by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis
Serves 4-6 

2 1/2 c milk (low fat is ok)*
1/3 c raw cocoa powder
1/2 c sugar (I've also used 1/2 agave syrup; and maple syrup would be yum, too)
1 tsp instant coffee granules or the zest of 1 orange or candied ginger or whatever special ingredients you want to add

*You could try making a vegan version by using coconut milk instead - just omit the tsp of coffee.

1. Put everything into a blender and whizzzzzzzz till mixed thoroughly.
2. Pour into a chilled ice cream maker (if you have one) or into a lidded plastic tub.
3. Follow the directions on your ice cream maker
4. If you're doing this by hand, put your sherbet into the freezer for an hour and over the next couple of hours as the sherbet hardens, pull it out of the freezer every hour or so and give it a stir. If you forget, don't worry ... the stirring makes it creamier but it still tastes amazing icy.

*Before you serve this, leave it out on the bench for 15 min or so to soften it. Remember, it's not a cream-based, egg yolk-based ice cream so the texture is a little more icy and hard. But you're going to love it!!

**And, try to use organic ingredients when you can.

***I keep meaning to try this with sweet potato puree, as I used in hot chocolate a few weeks ago ... you might want to give that a go as well!

But at any rate, with milk and antioxidant-rich cocoa powder ... this has got to have some health benefits. And if it keeps me from eating a whole chocolate bar ... well, that's definitely a good thing!

Amazing photo by Dylan at SBM Photography

How much did this cost me?

Using all organic ingredients, my sherbet cost me less than $2 to make. Yay!

Enjoy, and share the sherbet love,
Amanda xx

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Make Your Lettuce Happy Risotto

I have a deep, dark confession to make ... I'm a cheater. A risotto cheater. I love risotto's creaminess, cheesiness, versatility ... but I can't bring myself to stand in front of the stove 'massaging' stock into rice when I know I could toss everything into my rice cooker and be done with it. Plus it's difficult to find organic arborio rice, and when you do it's way more expensive. I know, I know ... these are just excuses. But in my house, traditional risotto and my darling 2 1/2 year old Nelle do not mix. (If you feel righteous, by all means do a real, slow risotto ... but be sure to tell your family or dinner party guests you did it the proper way ... )

So here's how this particular, unusual risotto came about. I recently checked out several cookbooks from the public library (a great way to try them on before shelling out the big bucks) ... and was patiently waiting for an opportune time to try the lettuce risotto recipe in one of them. Well, the other day I found a poor sad lettuce in the back of the fridge, frozen solid ... completely inappropriate for salads, but perfect for a cooked dish!

Here's what I made:

Make Your Lettuce Happy Risotto

serves ~5
adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Year

1 chopped onion
2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp celery seed
zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 1/2 c rinsed white rice * 

1 medium-sized head of frozen, wilty, or otherwise unhappy lettuce - shredded or minced**
1 c frozen peas

knob of butter (2-3 Tbs)
3/4 - 1c parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

* I used organic basmati this time, but you can use brown rice if you prefer (I often do). Just increase the amount of stock to 6 c

** or a mix of several lettuce varieties ... I actually used an organic iceberg, but it had darker green colour than most you'd get at a regular supermarket. I think bitter lettuces would be great, too.

*** As always, use organic ingredients when you can!

1. Saute the onion in the oil until softened (but not brown). Add the celery seed, lemon zest and lemon juice.

2. Put your rice and stock into a rice cooker (or a large pot on your stove); add the onion/lemon mix and stir.

3. If using a rice cooker, turn it on and start it. If using the stove, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer with a lid on.

4. Cook for about 15 min (longer if brown rice!) then add the peas and lettuce; mix. Cook a further 5 min or until the rice cooker says you're done. Double check that the rice is well cooked and slightly creamy. If it's still hard-ish, add a little more stock and cook another 5 min.

5. Remove the rice from heat and add the butter, parmesan and seasonings. Now it should be truly creamy - if not, add butter until it is! If you have some marscapone or soft cheese in your fridge in need of a home, try adding it in at the end too. Serve with a nice crispy green salad and a tangy salad dressing or the soooo easy carrot salad from last week.

If you want to do a risotto the real way, you'll need arborio rice and a little bit of patience (but not much, if you don't have a toddler you'll probably wonder why I do this the slack way ... ). You'll find risotto recipes in any good cookbook ... just substitute the above ingredients ...

NOTE: I just remade this ... with finely-minced celery instead of peas, and feta instead of parmesan, and cream cheese instead of butter. I also added the juice of 1/2 a lemon, when everything was done cooking and ready to serve. When I served it up, I sprinkled toasted pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) over each portion. (and it. was. awesome.)

How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients to make this recipe. The organic basmati was on sale for $6/kg so this amount was about $3. The onion was $0.70, the oil was $0.60, the stock I made myself from odds and ends of veg and froze (so nada). The frozen peas were about $1.10 and the lemon was about $0.50. I consider the lettuce to be no cost, since I saved it from the rubbish! The butter was $0.45 for 3 Tbs and the parmesan was $2.75 for 1 cup. So all in all, an organic risotto meal big enough to feed a large family cost me $9.10 (plus a couple dollars for salad).

Let me know if any of you have any other great wilty/frozen lettuce recipes ... I'm keen to hear about them!

Amanda xx

Friday, May 7, 2010

Special Homemade Tea Bags

Since I've given up shopping for a little while, I had to come up with an idea for my mom for Mother's Day that involved things I have around the house ... I checked out loads of great craft blogs and found gorgeous handsewn tea bags on Merriment Designs. Which inspired me - my Mom loves tea!

But, not having beautiful fabric like that lying around ... I thought I'd improvise by using unbleached coffee filters, cut up into tea-bag sizes and sewn around pockets of some of my favourite herbal teas. Then attach a little message on the tag, and voila!

Lovely picture by Steph Bond of Bondville 

Here's how I did it ...

Special Homemade Tea Bags

A few unbleached large coffee filters (small are ok, too, but you get way better value for large ones!)
A sewing machine or some patience
Needle and thread
Favourite teas (I used lemongrass, chamomile, hibiscus and ginger)
Card stock for tags

1. Cut small squares out of your coffee filters, through both layers at the same time - it really doesn't matter if the squares are unsquarish sorts of shapes, I think the imperfections make them cute and rustic.

2. If you have a sewing machine, sew around 3 sides of the squares. If not, use needle and thread to do so. (It won't take you long, sit down in front of Masterchef with it ... )

3. Fill each bag halfway with your chosen tea (you want about 1-2 tsp of tea per bag), then fold over the top and hand-sew shut. Leave extra thread at the end to attach your tag with (around 3 in or 8 cm is great)

4. Cut small rectangular tags out of card stock and use the needle to poke a hole in one end. Loop the thread through and tie it off.

5. I wrote the tea variety on one side of the tag and nice messages to my mom on the other. So that when she has a cuppa, she'll be reminded how special she is!

I won't let on how little this actually cost me, but coffee filters are $2 for a pack of 40 and I used about 3 or 4 filters to make a dozen tea bags. I had all the teas already ...  And this was my first day sewing on a sewing machine in about 15 years or so ... so we're talking really simple here!

Happy Mother's Day,
Amanda xx

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My New Blog!

I've got a new blog to go along with Easy Peasy Organic! It's called Organic in Brisbane , and it's where I'll share all my tips for finding bargains on organic food and sustainable products in the Brisbane area. But more than that, I'm hoping it'll become a bit of a community forum where readers can post their own sale sightings and tips too.

Please check it out, and be a part of it. We can all do this organic thing!

Amanda xx

PS The first post is full of Mum's Day ideas ... just in case ... xx

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chocolate Brownie Cake

This is a really easy chocolatey cake that even the Little Helpers can put together for that special day that's coming up (ahem!) It's not a light and fluffy thing... it's heavy and chewy and fudgy and absolutely amazing with thick cream* and some berries or some jam. And maybe a massage? Or a new camera?

Amazing photo by Dylan of SBM Photography

*I don't mean 'thickened' cream here, which is full of additives to make it thick. What I mean is something like Ivyhome Organic's mud cream (shown on the cake in the photo), which you can get at Wray Organic. My absolute favourite cream. And a Queensland producer.

Chocolate Brownie Cake

Adapted from Food Fast by Donna Hay
Serves 8

150 g butter, softened
1 c raw sugar
3/4 c raw cocoa powder
2 free-range eggs
1 c unbleached white flour*
1 tsp baking powder*
1/4 tsp salt

*or 1 c self-raising flour (then omit the baking powder)

**try to use organic ingredients when you can

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and line a small dish with baking paper. (Mine was ~8 in x 8 in)

2. Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the rest of the ingredients and stir just until combined. This cake is really fudgy already, so even if your Little Helper overmixes it, it'll be ok.

3. Bake for 10-15 min, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

4. Let the cake sit for 5 min, then remove it from the pan. Serve in small squares with cream and enjoy!

Some options for you to try:
- Make 2 cakes and layer them with berry jam in the middle and cream or icing on top.

- Make 2 cakes, keep one for now and cut the other into individual portions and freeze it (this freezes really well and makes for a great instant choc fix or dessert if you have guests). You can even eat it straight from the freezer ... maybe it's all the butter that keeps it soft?

How much did it cost me?

Well, we're using cocoa again here, so not much really! Everything I used was organic. I got the butter on sale for $3.50/250 gr, so it cost about $2. The organic raw sugar used here was about $0.50, and the organic raw cocoa powder was about $1.50. The eggs were $0.50 each and the flour was $0.50. A whole Mother's Day cake cost me only $5.50 to make. Oops, did I say Mother's Day?

Amanda xx

Ode to Puffed Corn

What would I do without puffed corn? In all its grainy, wholesome, nothing-added goodness ... it's my stand-by for toddler hunger pangs, toddler boredom at cafes, toddler snack alternative to the naughty stuff the adults are having ...

And I am an Iowa girl at heart, after all ...

Amanda xx

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Great Reason to Keep Airline Socks

I wanted to show you my little brainstorm for keeping Nelle's arms warm, now that it's cooling down ... and she still insists on wearing her 'dancing dress' ... and do you think I can get a shirt underneath that dancing dress? It's amazing how willful a 2 1/2 year old can be.

This is my compromise ... arm warmers! The other day I cut up an old pair of Nelle's tights to make some, but these are even better - they're old airline flight socks! You know, the kind you get when you fly overseas in that little bag of goodies? They're perfect because they don't have a foot shape to them, and they're nice and long, and they have a great elastic bit at the top.

So here's what you do-
1. Cut off the toe part of each sock, about 1 in (2.5 cm) from the end.

2. Put it on, with the elastic bit at the shoulder.

I'm really excited about this, because we fly internationally to see the grandparents and often in the middle of American winter ... so this will be an easy extra layer to go under Nelle's shirts!

Happy sock-hunting,
Amanda xx

Soooo Easy Carrot Salad

Recently my sister asked me for some ideas on how to use up carrots - which is something I think a lot about (not even kidding), since I almost always buy carrots in 2 kg bags at my local natural foods store. So this one's for you, Kari! 

Often we just grate them, add some oil and vinegar or lemon or lime juice and voila! Salad! But a recent posting by Heidi at 101 Cookbooks gave me the idea of dressing up my very simple salad with toasted almonds. This salad is nowhere near as extravagant as hers, but has the advantage of being whip-up-able in no time at all.

Soooo Easy Carrot Salad

Serves as many as you want*
*I don't mean to be vague here, but really I just keep adding carrots till it looks like enough ... I've written the recipe to serve 6ish

About 10 peeled, shredded medium-sized carrots (save the peels for veggie stock!)
3/4 c almonds
6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
salt to taste

*as always, use organic when you can!
1. Turn on the oven to 180C, 375F and when it's ready, toast your almonds on a baking tray for about 10-15 min until they start smelling amazing.

2. Mix the shredded carrots with the oil and vinegar in a large bowl.

3. Chop the almonds (I like a mix of largeish and smallish pieces for variety) and add to the bowl.

4. Mix everything, season, and serve!

How much did this cost me?

I get the organic carrots for $4/2 kgs, so they probably cost me $2 or so. This amount of pesticide-free almonds was about $1.50, and I'll estimate $0.50 for oil and vinegar. So fresh, organic carrot salad for $4. I'm going to finish off the rest of it right now ...

Amanda xx

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Easy Peasy No-Bird Stuffing

 Easy Peasy No-Bird Stuffing

Oh, Thanksgiving ... how I love thee ... In case you missed the cornbread post a few days ago, Thanksgiving in April is this American's way of getting her special food fix while living in subtropical Australia! It is autumn here now ... not that the leaves turn in Queensland or anyone's wearing sweaters yet or anything ... but it gets down to 15C (that's below 60F!!) at night now. Brrrrr!

Ok, enough of the gloating you say? Let's get on to sharing my favourite stuffing recipe ... my best take on the one my wonderful Grandma Alma made every holiday, and she even did it outside the turkey too! This year I baked it in a cast iron pot that I got for $5 at a garage sale, and it looked amazing. I only started making this after Grandma passed away, so I've adapted a recipe in my old Betty Crocker's Cookbook (circa 1969) that seems to do the job year after year. If you're interested, there is a newer Betty Crocker , but I haven't read it yet.

This recipe is a great way to use up stale bread ... I reckon you could try all kinds of variations, depending on what you have. Add nuts, or use different kinds of bread, or different herbs ...

Easy Peasy No-Bird Stuffing

This will easily serve 10-12 as a side, plus leftovers

1 onion, minced
3 stalks of celery, stalks and leaves all chopped
1 c butter (or a combo of butter and olive oil)
7 c bread cubes
4 medium apples, chopped (I don't peel mine)
3/4 c raisins or sultanas
1 - 1 1/2 L veggie stock
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp crushed dried sage (or 1 1/2 Tbs fresh)
2 tsp dried thyme leaves (or 2 Tbs fresh)
1/2 tsp pepper

*Always try to buy organic when you can!

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (360F). Saute the onion and celery in the butter until softened. Do this on medium heat so your onion doesn't burn. Stir in the herbs and mix. Then stir in 1/3 of the bread cubes and mix.

2. Put all the ingredients (except for the veggie stock) together in your baking dish (including what you've just sauteed) and mix well. Then pour the stock over, 1 cup at a time. Push the bread cubes down as the stock starts to creep up in your dish ... you want the cubes to absorb much of the moisture so you don't end up with soup. When the stock is visible below the top surface of the bread cubes (but these bread cubes have been adequately moistened), stop and put your stuffing into the oven. How much stock you end up using will depend largely on the staleness of your bread (drier bread will need more stock).

3. Bake for about 45 min - 1 hr (this will depend on the staleness of your bread). The stuffing is done when a) the liquid has been absorbed/baked away and b) the top is crispy and firm-feeling when you press on it with a spoon.

4. When it's done, I say serve it up in the baking dish with Sunday roast and lots of gravy!

PS. Feel free to stuff this into a bird if you want ... Betty says 3/4 c stuffing per every 1 lb of chicken or turkey.

Napkins for the mess ...
How much did this cost me?

Everything I used was 100% organic. Of course I didn't have any stale bread around, so I made a loaf in my breadmaker that morning. I reckon the loaf of bread cost me around $2 to make (if you use up stale bread, consider this free). The onion was about $0.60. The celery was half of a half bunch that I picked up at full price for $3.50 (so, $1.75), and the apples were about $2. The butter was almost a whole block, which I'd bought on special for $3.50. The raisins were about $14/kg so this amount was $0.70. And the herbs were negligibly cheap.

So, this organic Thanksgiving-y stuffing cost me just under $11 to make. Which may seem like a lot, for me, but you could do it more cheaply by using what you've got at home and it could be a hearty, easy main any night of the week (with a nice green salad ... yum!) for a family of 5 or so ... making it not too expensive at all.

Hope you're having a lovely weekend!
Amanda xx