Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunkissed Corn Tortillas

I had to call these sunkissed because - well - look at them! The most beautiful golden yellow, that makes me think of ice-cold Coronas with wedges of lime, on a wide sandy beach, with a strong, hot Mexican sun overhead.

It's nice to have something golden and warm and summery to make on a cool, rainy day. Or when things aren't going so well, and you need some therapeutic dough-type activity to distract you.

And these taste amazing, without strange additives or preservatives.

And you can make extra, and freeze them for the next rainy day. For quesadillas, or tostadas, or even little pies.

Little pies? Yep, this is like Instant Pastry! Just oil a muffin tin, fold a tortilla into each cup and fill with your favourite cooked filling (this one is lentil + veg). Top with cheese and bake till the cheese is all melty and browning. So many possibilities ...

Sunkissed Corn Tortillas

Makes ~16

1 1/2 c maize flour (don't use polenta and don't use cornstarch - it should be a med-fine ground corn flour)
1 1/2 c wholemeal or plain unbleached flour
1 tsp sea salt
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 c tepid water
+ more water, as needed to get the dough to hold together

1. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the oil and water. Mix with a wooden spoon until it's starting to adhere. Then, add extra water as needed until you can make a smooth, pliable (but not sticky) dough. Use your best judgement. Eventually you'll have to take it out of the bowl and use your hands to knead it together.

NOTE: I use my breadmaker's pizza setting to mix the dough for me - you can do that too, it's not cheating!

2. When the dough's starting to hold together well, pull it into 16 little palm-sized balls. To be honest, I do most of my kneading at the ball stage. When the dough is cohesive, I pull off balls and squish them around in my hand till they're smooth. Then, let the dough rest, covered with a towel, for 15-20 minutes.

3. Heat up a large frying pan or skillet on med-high, with 1-2 tsp of olive oil. One by one, roll out your dough balls into roundish, thinnish tortillas. Fry in the skillet for about 1 minute on each side, or until it starts to show little brown spots and puff up very slightly. I don't re-oil after the 1st one ... I just keep rolling/frying in assembly line fashion.

4. As the tortillas finish up, cool them on a rack before stacking and storing ... or keep them warm in a low oven.

5. Use them as pie crusts (see above), or quesadillas (put cheese between 2 tortillas, bake till the cheese melts, cut into wedges and top with salsa + sour cream + guacamole + lettuce), or use your imagination!

How much did this cost me?

These'll cost about $3-5 for the whole organic batch, depending on what type of flour you use.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Revised Beetroot (Beet) Smoothie

Hee hee! I'm always trying to get Robbie to eat beetroot. He detests it. Actually - hates it is a better description. But it's so good for you that I've given myself a mission of integrating it (secretly) into lots of different things. This one is an overwhelming success, for the whole family. Nelle had almost as much as we did!

The key is the hint of cocoa in there. And the hint of something else ... that you can't quite place ... (beetroot!) You'll need a juicer for this - but if you have one hiding away in your cupboard, take this opportunity to juice up some beets, then juice up some carrots and I'll have another couple of recipes for you!

He Drank the Smoothie!


Serves 2-3

juice of 1 large beetroot (aka beet)
3 bananas (can be a mix of ripe and frozen)
1 heaped Tbs raw cocoa powder
1/2 c greek yogurt (or plain yogurt with a couple Tbs of raw honey)
1 1/2 c milk

1. Put everything into a blender and blend. Enjoy!

This is Robbie's take on the smoothie:
"It's not beetroot unless you can taste it."
 So there you have it.

How much did this cost me?

Our smoothies were 100% organic. Well, I get my beetroots at the farmer's markets - use up the greens in some kind of garlicky dish and then play my tricks with Robbie. So one beetroot probably cost me around $0.50. The bananas were on special for $3/kg - so say $1.50 for those. The cocoa powder was only $0.20 or so. The yogurt I bought on special - 1 kg for $7 I think, so 1/2 c was only $0.35. And the milk was $0.80. So around $3 for 2-3 lovely smoothies, complete with lots of calcium and vitamins!

Have a lovely weekend,
Amanda xx

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lucky = Choc Chip Chickpea Cookies

This is the kind of day where I needed a happy boost. Like the kind Nelle gives me. Or cookies ...

lucky = hanging out with my darling

Here I am, sitting in oncology, waiting to see my oncologist (never thought I'd have one of those), waiting to have my half-yearly anti-osteoporosis treatment, waiting for cancer to come back, waiting, waiting, waiting. Oh, it's not so dramatic as that, really. But being here reminds me so much that I had Cancer just 2 years ago. And that I have a pretty decent chance of having it again in my lifetime. And that so many other people are at this moment dealing with the fear and the uncertainty and the guilt and the anger and the sadness. Even gorgeous young women like the girl in pink over there (who has her hair, I note - is she like me? Is she done? Or just starting?).

But I'm one of the lucky ones, right? Not like my friend L. who died 18 months after finding out she had breast cancer, at the age of 29. Or my dear J. who's been having chemotherapy for 2 years now, fighting that thing called prognosis. Sometimes it just hits me - and today's one of those days. I wish I felt luckier right now.

So, shall I put up a recipe? I guess if you've made it this far, you deserve one! Hmm .... I think what we need is another cookie recipe. I mean, what makes a girl feel better than a nice melt in your mouth cookie. With the best chocolate in the world in it ...

I've been experimenting a lot with cookies lately, and this is a goodie. Firstly, I have to point out that it includes a bar of dark Green&Blacks chocolate. Have you had G&B? It's sooo yum. And organic. I usually just chop up a bar of chocolate instead of using choc chips ... the latter often have those suspicious ingredients in them that I strive to avoid. Check out the ingredients sometime, and you might be walking over to the chocolate aisle too!
TIP for you: buy up when G&B goes on sale. I bought 10 bars last time they were halfprice!

But the other special ingredient in these cookies is besan flour - it's chickpea flour, used a lot in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. In a cookie it lends extra protein and a deeper flavour. Just don't try the raw dough - it has a weird chickpea taste (that will disappear on cooking).

Here you go ...

lucky = cookies on the deck in the sunshine

Lucky = Choc Chip Chickpea Cookies

makes 2-3 dozen (depending on how big you make them)

1 c unbleached plain flour
3/4 c besan flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c chopped raisins
1 x 100 g bar Green&Black dark chocolate, chopped
2 organic eggs
1 c packed unrefined brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c sunflower oil

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a cookie sheet (or two) with baking paper.

2. Sift the flours and baking soda and cinnamon into a bowl. I do this just because my besan flour and baking soda tend to get lumpy. And since my sieve is then already dirty, I figure why not just sift all the dry ingredients together? Then add the raisins and the chocolate.

3. In a separate (large) bowl, cream the 2 eggs with the sugar. Then add the vanilla and oil and mix until combined.

4. Pour your dry ingredients into your wet ones, and mix gently with a spatula or spoon until everything's combined. But don't overmix.

5. Drop spoonfuls onto your cookie sheet - don't worry, it'll look awful but will spread out into lovely round cookies in the oven. 

6. Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 min, or until the cookies are brown on top. When they're done, take them out of the oven and cool them on the tray for a few minutes, before transferring them to a rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight jar for up to a week (or however long they last).

lucky = warm cookies in bed. with your favourite cuddler. Can't wait till mine gets home from work ...

Cost-wise, besan flour isn't too expensive, and if you get your choc bars on sale, you'll be doing great! You know what?  Even talking about these cookies has made me feel a bit better, and much luckier. So thanks! I think maybe that's what I like about food (aside from the taste, of course) - it grounds me. Thinking about food - and in particular nutritious, quality food - reminds me that life comes down to simple things.

Hope you find your luck today too,
Amanda xx

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gwen Loves Lemon Millet Cookies

I was wandering through the natural foods store today ... and found myself buying millet flour. As soon as I saw it, I was interested. I know millet is good for you, and I like using a variety of different grains in the family diet. The flour was even cheap (as far as organic whole-grain flour goes). And it had a lovely golden-ness to it that charmed me ... I couldn't wait to see what it could do.

Of course, having no experience with millet flour I had to look to the internet for advice. A couple of basics I learned there:
Millet has lots of B-vitamins.
It's gluten-free, so you have to use it in conjunction with wheat for leavened breads.
People don't seem to use it very much in recipes.
It's a drought resistant crop  (which makes me wonder why it's not more common in Australia?)

Anyway, my first baking attempt with millet flour was a success. Let me tell you - and after 5 cookies and a few bits of dough I can attest to this - you're gonna like this recipe! My friend Gwen even reckons it's her fave homemade cookie ... and she's got good taste ...

The golden ones

Gwen Loves Lemon Millet Cookies

Makes 5-6 dozen

250g softened organic butter
1 c raw sugar
1/2 c unrefined brown sugar
2 organic eggs
1 1/2 c unbleached plain flour
3/4 c millet flour
1/2 c wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking soda
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon

* As always, try to use organic ingredients when you can. Give millet flour a try - at my local shop it's cheaper than organic wholemeal flour!

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (375F). Line cooking sheets with baking paper (if needed).

2. Using a hand mixer, mix the softened butter and sugars until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing only until they're combined.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir with a spatula or spoon until everything is uniformly mixed.

4. Roll the dough into 2.5 cm (1 in) balls and line them up on the cookie sheet, with at least 2.5 cm between them. Use a fork to slightly flatten the top of each*.

*If the dough is sticking to your hands, and not rolling easily in your palms - give it a rest. Cover the bowl and pop it into the fridge for 30 min. Then try again.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 min, until the cookies are nice and golden and aren't completely squishy when you touch them. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for about 10 min, before transferring them to a wire rack.

These will keep in an airtight container for 5-7 days ... or you can freeze them!

How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients in my mega-batch. Which by the way, we ate + gave to my friend with the new baby + fed to Robbie's hungry lab-members. The butter costs $5, the sugar $1, the eggs $0.50 each. The plain flour was about $0.60, the wholemeal was about $0.30, and the millet flour was about $0.40. The lemons were $0.30 - bought them from another parent at my Nelle's kindy. So my mega-batch cost ... $8.60. Which is about $0.12-ish per cookie. Thrifty! Healthy! Easy Peasy!

I hope you enjoy these,
Amanda xx 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Penguin Rice

Here's a little story for you, to explain the somewhat bizarre name of this dish. Penguin Rice.

After I finished my uni degree, I got a job working as a field ecologist on a penguin colony in Argentina. I wish I could do justice to a description of the place. The ocean was too cold for swimming and full of noisy seabirds. You could find perfectly smooth red pebbles on the beach from where the waves pounded the red rocks. The penguins nested in burrows in the sides of hills or under prickly bushes to keep out of the hot Patagonian sun, and brayed like donkeys, half a million in number. We worked hard - counting, tracking, catching, banding, measuring, walking, flagging, surveying. We saw tarantulas and guanacos and rheas and maras and elephant seals and skuas and got bitten by penguin-fleas. It was amazing.

And during the 6 months we worked with the penguins, my co-worker Amy used to make this super yummy pasta dish pretty regularly. With cabbage, and onion, and enough butter to explain my substantial weight gain that summer. (Well, almost - the Argentinian wine probably had something to do with it, too ... )

So, this is my adaptation of Amy's dish. Feel free to use pasta instead of rice - that's how she used to make it. Salud!

Penguin Rice

Serves 4-6
Preparation time 30 min

1 onion, chopped
2 c cabbage and/or brussels sprouts, chopped
3 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt
3 c cooked white rice (feel free to use brown - I just have loads of white at the moment)
1 Tbs butter
salt and pepper to taste

*try to use organic ingredients when you can

1. Make extra rice - it will always come in handy in the following few days ... I'll leave it to you to determine how much, but as a general rule 2 cups of water + 1 c raw rice = 3 c cooked rice.

2. Heat 3 Tbs butter in a skillet over med-high heat. Saute the onion in the butter until soft and translucent. Add the cabbage and/or brussels sprouts and salt and saute for another few minutes, until they are soft as well (but not soggy).

3. Turn the heat down to low, add the rice and the rest of the butter, and stir to combine. Season to taste. You're done!

4. Robbie had this as a side, I had it as a main. If you like butter, it's gonna be hard to resist ...

How much did this cost me?

My all-organic batch of Penguin Rice cost me less than $3. The onion was about $0.70, the cabbage and brussels sprouts were actually handed down to us by some friends who were going away (so free to me!), the rice was just under $1. The butter was the expensive part - $1.25.

Two good tips for you:

Make extra rice.
Before your friends go away on holiday, raid their veggie drawer.

Buen provecho!
Amanda xx

PS. If you want to know more about the penguins - click here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Comfort Soup

Recently dropped back into the real world after holiday, I needed a little pick me up. And not in the tonnes-of-antioxidants-spinach type of way. More in the ... well ... chocolate or bread or cheese kind of way. I know you know what I'm talking about.

Batch of cookies - check.
Fresh baguette with ample butter - check.
Cheese - hmmmm ...

This little number is what I came up with. It's kind of a mac and cheese. Only fancy. And a soup. Hence, I had no idea what to call it ... and ended up with 'Comfort Soup'. It could have just as easily been Fancy Mac-n-Cheese Soup. Or Apple, Leek and Cheese Soup with Pasta. A little cumbersome, right? Especially when it's all about those simple things that make one happy. Simple things. Yes.

Anyway, this dish was full of cheesy goodness but with the virtuosity of soup. Nelle and I both loved it for lunch one cool, rainy day. And there was a little left over, which morphed into mac and cheese (minus the soup) in the fridge.

Feel free to add less milk to the recipe and make mac and cheese straight up, if you prefer.

Comfort Soup

Serves 4
Preparation time 20 min

1 leek, washed thoroughly and sliced
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 apple, shredded
2 Tbs cornstarch
4 c organic milk (I used full-fat, but you could try a skinnier one if you want)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c cubed swiss cheese (I think cheddar would be good, too)
1/4 c shredded parmesan (or pecorino)
2-3 c dried wholemeal pasta shapes

*try to use organic ingredients when you can

1. Boil the pasta according to the packet directions - but try to keep it al dente. You can continue with the rest of the recipe while the pasta is cooking. When it's done, drain it and set aside.

2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, saute the leek in olive oil until it's soft. Add the shredded apple and stir. Add the cornstarch and stir until everything is well mixed - do this all over medium heat.

3. Gradually add the 4 c of milk, stirring as you go. Be consistent with stirring, because your sauce (oops, I mean soup base) can easily stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

4. When the milk has thickened nicely, turn the heat down to low and add the salt and cheese. Stir until the cheese has completely melted in. Remove from heat, add the pasta, and serve up with some fresh bread and a green salad.

How much did this cost me?

My soup was completely organic ... the leek was about $1 and the apple about $0.70. The milk was $2.05 and the cheese was $3 all up. The pasta was probably around $1.75. This whole batch of soup cost me around $8.50 - what I would've paid for one bowl of soup out at a cafe. And where else can you get mac and cheese soup?

Amanda xx

Friday, August 13, 2010

8 or So Books That Changed How I Live My Life

A few weeks ago, around this time in the afternoon, I was sitting in one of my favourite coffeehouses ever. Which is also a bookstore. And sipping a sickeningly-sweet mocha and listening to the rain outside. And the whole atmosphere of the place got me thinking about books that have changed my life ... 

Now there are lots of books that affected me, but what I mean here is books that affected how I live. I thought I might share them with you, in case you feel like doing some reading ...

1. Animal Liberation - by Dr. Peter Singer

Now, please don't be frightened away because I've put this first! This was the book that I read when I was about 12 or 13 and which inspired me to become a vegetarian. (Apparently announcing so while at lunch with my parents at KFC, but that's another story ... ) 

Among other things, the book talks about meat industries. It's a bit gut-wrenching, and somewhat traumatising ... but it made me decide I couldn't justify eating animals anymore. Not for everyone, but definitely affected me.

2. The Moosewood Cookbook - by Mollie Katzen

Would you believe I've never actually owned this cookbook? But when I went to university and started playing around a little more with food, I had a friend who had it - it was love at first sight. Then it turned up again when I volunteered on the penguin colony in Argentina. And it continues to turn up again and again and again ... maybe one day I'll actually buy it.

The Moosewood Cookbook is a great starter for vegetarians - it has lots of yummy basic and wholefood recipes. It gave me the courage to start experimenting with what I was cooking.

3. Buddhism for Mothers - by Sarah Napthali

A friend gave me this book when I was pregnant, and I still go back to it. You know those moments you feel pulled in a hundred directions at the same time? Or when you can't even remember what you like to do, for yourself only? Or when you feel soooo nervous that something might happen to your little precious? (Oh, I know that one!)

This book has great strategies for dealing with the challenges of parenthood, using the philosophy of buddhism. Little ways to incorporate meditation into busy everyday lives. How to practice mindfulness. Personally, I think meditation should be like exercise - you prioritise it and make it part of your routine, and it helps keep you healthy. Just in a different way. This book made me realise that a few minutes for myself wasn't neglectful of Nelle at all.

4. Chemical Free Kids - by Dr. Sarah Lantz

I read this book something like 6 months after finishing cancer treatment, and um, it would be an understatement to say that it affected me. I knew that everyday foods and products had icky chemicals in them ... I mean, I had already gone mostly-organic when I was pregnant. And after cancer, I really wanted to improve what I put in my body.

But what really hit me were 
a) the cosmetics and beauty industries use lots of awful chemicals
b) consumers cannot assume that because a product is on the shelf it's safe

After reading this book (which by the way is by a scientist), I started looking at ingredients. Looking at chemicals I couldn't pronounce with more suspicion. Buying more organic/natural beauty and cleaning products. And, ultimately, making more of my own. 

5. Bodyworks - by Murdoch Press

I actually bought this book about 2 years before I made anything out of it. It was one of those lucky finds on the bargain table ... $12 or something. And it had pretty pictures and I liked the idea of making my own natural products, so I got it. But many of the recipes called for exotic essential oils ... a little expensive. 

It wasn't till after I read Chemical Free Kids (above) that I remembered this book was on my shelf. And now I use it all. the. time. I make shampoo and moisturiser and lip balm and after shave and foot scrubs and bath oils. I make them for us at home and as gifts - and I love that I know exactly what's in the products I put on my body. And most of them I could eat, if I needed to. 

6. Green Clean - by PR Books, Ltd

I will never forget looking in the supermarkets in central Glasgow for some dish soap ... turning over the bottle and seeing formaldehyde as a listed ingredient. It took me 3 shops to find a brand that didn't have any in it! Considering that my food touches the plates I wash and (often) the table I clean off, I prefer knowing that the cleaning products are natural and safe and even (to an extent) edible. 

Natural cleaning does not get any simpler (or cheaper) than baking soda and vinegar. It's amazing what you can do with these products and a few others (like olive oil, or lemon, or tea tree oil). This book is a great recipe guide to all aspects of household cleaning with natural products - something I've started using almost exclusively now.

7. The Breast Cancer Prevention Guide - by Dr Sandra Cabot and Margaret Jasinska

Ok, I know what you're thinking. But I actually found this book after I had breast cancer. And it's great because it has information in it for women who've never had cancer, women undergoing treatment, and women (like me) who are for the most part through with cancer treatment but have a relatively high chance of getting breast cancer again one day. So, hmmm ... I'd like to minimise my chances of that. 

This book has lots of great information on types of breast cancer and how to detect it and how it's treated, environmental factors associated with cancer, and (mainly dietary) recommendations for reducing risk. The authors base their recommendations on scientific studies, which I always like to see.

What do I do now that I didn't before? Honestly, I was pretty healthy before cancer - I exercised regularly and ate lots of wholefoods. In my case, estrogen probably played a big role in my cancer development ... part of the reason I've reduced the chemicals in my life is because many can mimic the action of estrogen. But I have changed a few things: I eat more turmeric. I drink green tea and white tea. I take kelp supplements for iodine. I grind up flaxseeds and sprinkle it in when I can. Easy stuff, but I feel good about myself.

8. The Thank-you Philosophy - by someone brilliant who sadly I've forgotten

I have tried so hard to remember where and when I read this article! Or even what exactly it was called. But alas, those details didn't stick with me like the main point of the article did ...

The basic premise is that we should accept more offers when they are made. Why? You know that wonderful feeling you get when you spontaneously help somebody out? Well, this article was about that wonderful feeling, and how by saying 'yes' to someone's offer you can actually make them feel really great. Even if you don't really need the help. At no cost to yourself.

Here's an example from our recent holiday. Walking to our rental car with 2 suitcases and 2 other bags and 3 carry-ons and a car seat and a toddler (what can I say? I pack light.), Robbie and I pass two teenage girls sitting outside the office, obviously waiting for their parents inside. One of them says "Would you like some help with those?" and stands up, ready to relieve me of at least one suitcase. Which, given that I had things balanced at that stage, wasn't really necessary. Maybe I didn't need help, but by saying yes I had the power to a) reduce my own likelihood of dropping everything (including my daughter) mid-parking lot and b) make this girl feel really nice.

I try to remember to accept offers more often. And show my appreciation when people do help me out. I think we all have a tendency to feel guilty asking for assistance ... when so often people are more than happy to lend a hand. So, try saying 'yes' sometime, and see how it goes!

Amanda xx 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Roasted Roots Soup

Ah, blissful summer of the northern hemisphere gone. (Just like the 4th of August I might add, lost somewhere over the Pacific). Dropped back into Brisbane winter - icy cold and bleak, with that damp wind that cuts through all your clothes and chills you, the long dark nights ... ok, not really. But it is cold! Seriously!

And winter = hot steamy soup. Regardless of where you live in the world. Oh, and maybe roast veggies. And warm buttered bread. Hmm..... wonder if I can have all of them at once?

I must digress for a moment to tell you why I love roasting veggies. Well, aside from the fact that roasting brings out the sweetest, most wonderful flavours, it's also a process where I can chop, chop, chop, pop into the oven, and then ... play with Nelle. Or tidy up. Or catch up on work. Plus, roasted veggies gives you that lovely holiday/weekend feeling, whenever you need it.

This recipe is really easy, and open to your experimentation - try using other root veggies, in different combinations, whatever you have on-hand. Plus you can have it different thicknesses (really thin vs. puree-style). Or even different textures - if you can be bothered to press the soup through a sieve you'll get an amazing silky smooth texture that's worth the effort. (Unless your two year old is screaming, at which time just serve as is!) But I must admit I love the parsnips in here ... they sweeten up the whole soup really nicely.

Roasted Roots Soup

Serves 6-8 
Freeze extra portions for great lunches or quick dinners

5-7 fist-sized potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
2 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, washed really well and chopped (up to where the green tops get hard-ish, use your best judgement)
3 Tbs spreadable butter, melted (or 1 1/2 Tbs each of butter and olive oil)
a pinch or two of sea salt
~ 1 L of milk or veggie stock
salt and pepper to taste

*use organic ingredients when you can, especially the milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (370F).

2. Put all the veggies, the butter, and the sea salt into a roasting dish and mix around so everything gets coated in buttery goodness.

3. Bake for around 1 hr (stirring them around every now and then), until the veggies are cooked through in the middles and crispy on their outsides.

4. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Then, put them into your blender with the milk or veggie stock (in a couple of batches, if need be) and blend till smoothish. Add extra liquid as needed if you prefer a thinner soup versus a thick soup versus a puree.

5. If you want to make your soup extra-special, press it through a fine sieve. It's like silk. Warm your soup back up (in the still warm oven, or on the stovetop). Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy with some hot, buttered bread.

NOTE: I use milk in this recipe because I figure I can always use the extra calcium, and it's nice and rich. But if you prefer, feel free to use stock.

How much did this cost me?

I'm really going to have to estimate here, because I got all the veggies in my home-delivery box this week. But it was all organic. The potatoes were probably around $1.50, the leeks were about $2, the parsnips were about $2 and the milk was about $2. The spreadable butter was around $0.30. So I got a lovely batch of organic leek and potato and parsnip soup for less than $8. Which may sound like a lot, but add some bread and maybe a little salad and you could still feed a family of four for $4 a head or so.

And the most time-consuming part was the initial chopping. After that, it was easy peasy!

Now, please excuse me as it's time to wrap myself up in a nice warm blanket ...
Amanda xx

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This Lace

I am sooooo proud of this lace. My first sewing for my baby girl, and (with my mom's help of course) I. did. it.  A gorgeous little chicky dress with frilly lace! 

My mom and I had a lovely day cutting out fabric and patterns and pinning and stitching and ironing and hanging out together. Nelle even helped whenever she could get her little hands in the way (oops, I mean in the action). It was great. And as soon as I got back to Brisbane, I set up my own little sewing desk ... went through all my clothes to determine what needs refashioning ... and I'm going to go for it! I am so addicted to shopping for secondhand clothes - but wouldn't it be great to fix up and beautify the clothes I already have? Much better for the environment ... and my wallet ...

Amanda xx

PS. I'm not the only one who's been sewing lately ... Ashley from the gorgeous blog Not Without Salt has just been sewing for her soon-to-be-born ... if you haven't seen her blog yet you should check it out!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Peachy Crumble with Balsamic Syrup

Here I sit at LAX, waiting for my flight home. Home. Sometimes it's almost hard to remember what (where?) that is, when you've been away for so long. And spending weeks in the house you grew up in, in the town where you went to elementary, junior high and high school, and where numerous people still have videos of you with your hairsprayed-and-blowdried showchoir hair (oh, yes).

And when I travel with my two best friends (the little one with the long eyelashes, and the bigger one with the freckles and the wicked laugh), I guess my concept of home moves around with me.

Or, there's my sister's place in Colorado, in a town that I can now drive around without consulting a map (surely that's a qualification for 'home') ... and where they have a great farmer's market on summer Saturday's and you can get gorgeous organic peaches ...

Oh, here we are then! At a recipe I wanted to share with you, based on some perfect peaches. I'm feeling a little long-winded today, and nostalgic. So thanks for bearing with me ... Anyway, here's a tip for you - check at the farmers market to see if vendors have 2nds. Fruits that may not look perfect (but taste it). We got 11 lbs of organic peaches this way for ... $10. So, it's worth checking. And if you end up with lots of peaches (or whatever), because you absolutely couldn't resist ... well, make some crumble, peel and freeze some, make some jam ... and you will have spent next to nothing.

I made this crumble with a reduced-balsamic syrup, which balanced the super-sweetness of the peaches with a little *zing!* You could use any leftover syrup on ice cream or a bowl of strawberries ...

Peachy Crumble with Balsamic Syrup

Serves 8, in a 12-in round baking dish (or comparable)

5 c sliced and peeled and pitted peaches
3 Tbs butter
1/3 c brown sugar

The topping
1/3 c brown sugar
1 1/3 c wholemeal flour
1 c oats
1/2 c butter, cubed
1/4 tsp salt

The syrup
1/2 c peach juice*
1/4 c good quality balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs brown sugar

*I used the juice that was left over from cutting my peaches ... but you could always try to squeeze a peach or mash it to get the juice for the syrup.

**As always, try to use organic ingredients when you can. Keep your eyes open for cheap, organic peaches - and if you find some, buy lots!

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (370F). Use a little dab of butter to grease your baking dish.

2. Put the peaches into the baking dish. Sprinkle with the sugar and small chunks of butter. Test your peaches and add more sugar if they aren't as sweet as mine were.

3. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry topping ingredients together ... then add in the cubes of butter and use a food processor or your hands to combine the butter/flour mix until it has a texture halfway between cookie dough and bread crumbs.

4. Spread the topping over the top of the peaches. Put into the oven and bake for about 30-40 min, until the top is golden and well-baked.

5. While the crumble is baking, make your syrup. Put the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil -then reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is reduced by about half. It'll be nice and thick and dark. Keep stirring as it simmers, so it doesn't stick or burn. Remove from heat and cool. (Store leftover syrup in a jar in the fridge)

6. Serve warm with the best vanilla ice cream you can afford. And a little drizzle of balsamic syrup. And think of home.

Amanda xx

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Saving Green Beans (for another day)

Ok, this may sound like a really weird recipe ... but here's what happened to me yesterday.

Walking around the Longmont (Colorado) farmer's market with my sister, the sun is hot, the sky is without a single cloud, the mountains hang on the horizon. We discuss what to make for dinner. Potatoes? Lasagne? Then, we spot an organic stall selling green beans - organic green beans - for $3 a pound.

We cannot resist.

Look at them, nestled in amongst the yellow squash and the spring onions - could you resist?

So, Kari and I walk away with more than 3 lbs of crisp green beans. We trim them, we wash them, we steam some for dinner, some sit patiently in the fridge for tonight ... and for the rest, well I thought we should save them for one of those days when my sister and her hubby (who are new parents) need a quick summery pick-up. So, we froze them.

Saving Green Beans (For Another Day)


Ultra-fresh green beans, preferably organic

1. Wash and trim your beans. Cut them into 1 in/ 2.5cm pieces.

2. Boil a pot of water. When it's boiling, put in your beans for about 2-3 min until they are that bright-green-cooked colour, but are not yet soft.

3. Drain them, and stick them straight into cold water. Otherwise, they'll keep cooking and they'll be overdone.

4. Dry them off gently with a clean tea towel and spread them in a single layer across a baking-paper-lined baking sheet. Put them in the freezer for an hour till they're frozen, then transfer into a freezer bag or jar. Store in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

How much did this cost me?

I always shop around the farmers market to find the best deals - this time organic beans at $3/lb. I froze about a $3 quantity. Yum! I might try this with a variety of veggies, when I find them at great prices! Or fruit ...

Hope you had a great time at the market too!
Amanda xx