Thursday, April 29, 2010
*according to my friend Harris
We set up tables outside in the mottled shade of the tree and ate till we felt like we might explode. And isn't that the measure of a successful Thanksgiving?
Our menu was a mix of traditional American Thanksgiving + vegetarian goodies + Robbie's famous roast lamb with cumin and coriander. I'll try to share as many of the recipes as I can ... beginning with the cornbread, which is hereforth known as "The Very Best Cornbread," and uses our old thrifty favourite, polenta (corn meal).
Serves 10 generously
adapted from Mollie Katzen's wonderful Still Life with Menu Cookbook
2 c polenta (corn meal)
1 c unbleached white flour
1 c wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 c raw sugar or honey or agave syrup
2 tsp baking soda
2 c milk + 1 tsp vinegar
(or 2 c milk that's hitting its use-by date and maybe even a little sourish)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
*try to use organic ingredients - if you're new to organic, start by replacing the cheap ingredients (like polenta) and keep replacing things one by one as you need to buy new of something
1. Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F. Grease 2 baking dishes or line with baking paper. (Mine were metal and square and about 20 cm or 8 in in diameter, but I've also used round glass dishes successfully too)
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add all the wet ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until well combined, making sure you get the egg yolks all mixed in. (Many people, Mollie Katzen included, would mix the wet stuff together first before adding it to the dry stuff, and you can if you want, but I hate washing dishes so the all-in-one-dish way is how I do it). But also try not to over-mix.
3. Pour your batter into the dishes, put them in the oven and bake for 20-30 min. When done the corn bread should be golden on top and a skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Wait a few minutes before popping the cornbread out of the dishes, to minimise breakage.
4. Serve large squares or triangles with butter and honey (apricot jam or maple syrup are yummy too).
PS You can also make these into muffins, you'll probably get around a dozen from this recipe. Just reduce the cooking time to 15-20 min and keep an eye on them. Nelle loves them.
All of the ingredients I used were organic, and most I had purchased bulk. The polenta and the wholemeal flour cost about $0.60 each, and the white flour cost about $.45. The milk was the most expensive part at $1.30, so if you used milk you were planning to throw out or marked down milk (or even maybe whey from making ricotta) that would save you. Mine was full cost this time. The oil probably cost about $1. The eggs were $0.50 each, and the sugar, baking soda, salt and vinegar were all negligible cost. So this large lot of corn bread cost me about $5, which to be honest is about the cost of one large muffin in this country (!!)
Remember the parsley pasta I made last week, and dried, and stored in the fridge? This is what I did with the rest ...
I was feeling super lazy around dinnertime (oh dear, in a take-away frame of mind), but I knew our veg drawer was full of things that needed to be used up. So I was very very happy to remember we had this fresh-ish pasta in the fridge, ready for a simple and fast dinner. I pulled out some veg, chopped and sauteed and grated and we were eating in about 20 minutes. Or rather, Robbie and I were eating, and Nelle was running circles around the dining and living rooms ...
Here's what I did:
The rest of the pasta recipe from the other day
(or 4 servings of dried pasta with some fresh parsley added when you serve)
1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
The veg I had in my fridge
(yours may differ ... but try to include a mix of colours)
2 spring onions
1 cob of corn
1/4 c snap peas
1/4 c green beans
2 small zucchinis
(other nice options you might have are carrots, squash, mushrooms, asparagus)
1. Chop all the veg, and cut the corn kernels off the cob.
2. Saute all the veg and the lemon zest in the olive oil for 5 min or so, until cooked but still crispy. Add the lemon juice. Turn off the heat, but leave everything in the pan.
3. Boil the pasta (remember, not too long for homemade!), drain, and add to the veg. Mix well. Add the parmesan and mix.
4. Serve up, adding salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle each serving with olive oil.
Whew, take away urges averted ... for now ...
Enjoy! Amanda xx
I've always loved the idea of craft, but I have a hard time motivating myself to do it. Maybe it's insecurity? Because usually once I get going, it's all good ...
Well today I decided that I do too much shopping. Granted, mostly it's op-shopping (thrift stores for the non-Aussies), but I guess it adds up. So, I've vowed to do no more non-food/necessity shopping for 2 whole months. Break the addiction.
Instead, I'm going to up-cycle the stuff we have around the house - make new things out of old. I'm actually really excited about the challenge, and I think it fits in well with the theme we have going on here - practical, economical, sustainable!
So, this means I'll be exploring my crafty side! (Which is good timing for us because we have Mother's Day, my sister-in-law's birthday and both Robbie's and my mother's birthdays coming up ... )
I recently found some great 'recipes' for remodeling T-shirts into cool looking accessories and this afternoon turned a sad old T-shirt of Robbie's into 2 scarves and a bracelet and some dish cloths. Ok, the latter isn't super exciting but I had some bits left over and didn't want to throw them out ...
Click on the links above to get to the great tutorials I used to make these things, but I'll also briefly describe the methods here.
makes 1 fringey scarf
adapted from www.collegefashion.net
One old T-shirt (can be solid or patterned but needs to be a crew neck)
1. Lay the T shirt out on the floor, with the side you want to the be outside of your scarf on the inside. (Does that make sense?)
2. Draw a dot about 30 cm or 12 in under the lowest point on the neckline, in the center of the shirt.
3. Draw a dot on each side of the shirt where the sleeves meet the body, about 2.5 cm or 1 in above the bottom of the sleeve.
4. Connect the dots in a big arc. Then cut off the sleeves on the inside of the seam and cut along your arc. Save the bottom of the T-shirt for the next recipe.
5. Draw a dot on each side of the neckline seam at the top, about 2.5 cm or 1 in out towards where the sleeves used to be. Draw a dot in the center of the shirt, right where the neckline seam is. Draw a line to connect the dots in an arc and cut along it.
6. Starting from one side, cut the T-shirt into 1 cm (1/2 in) wide-ish strips, (this is important!) leaving 1 cm (1/2 in) at the top. Keep going. Then you're done!
7. Wear it long and dangly or wrap it twice for a more necklace-type look.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Ok, this post may seem a bit weird ... but the rubber spatula is sooooo important to thrifty cooking, I thought it warranted a special note. I use my spatula all the time, mostly to scrape batter out of bowls. And if you doubt how much you can scrape out with a spoon vs with a spatula, I challenge you to spend a couple dollars, get one, and try it. Think - your finger. Only much more hygenic. (of course, you can still use your finger if you don't want to share ... )
I also use my spatula to 'fold batter,' take ice cream out of the ice cream maker, take rice out of the rice cooker, get all the smoothie out of the blender, etc.
So, ode to the spatula - may it help us prevent food waste and save us lots of money.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
By the way, potatoes are a super-economical organic option ... you can get them on sale for less than $2 a kilo and there is so much you can do with them. Hash browns at breakfast, potato salad for lunch, roasted/mashed/baked/or chipped for dinner (well, not all on the same day!). But the lemon-roasted potatoes I'm going to tell you about in just a minute are not to be missed. Think Greek restaurant. Yum.
But first, let's go back to the beginning of the evening -
The night began with amber ales and pistachios and honey roasted cashews and tamari roasted pumpkin seeds ...
I put the nuts into old tea-light holders and shot glasses - neither of which have I used in years for anything, but this was a really easy way to make a stylish snacks bar. I roasted the nuts myself - I'll add a recipe for these later as I didn't even think to write down how much of this and that I used.
And then there was meat for the carnivores and zucchini salad and pickles and of course the Greek-style lemon potatoes ...
and finally we finished with a cup of tea and some of Margie's amazing peanut butter cookies (with criss-crosses on top and everything ... sadly devoured before pictures could be taken). The evening ended at 8:30 ... but hey, we all have young kids and I'm telling you 8:30 is the new midnight ...
I want to quickly share with you the potato recipe, because it really is amazing ... and I found it in a really good vegan cookbook called Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. Now I don't usually cook vegan-ly because a) I like the basic wholefood-ness of butter and milk (ok, and the taste!) and b) because it's uncertain whether soy is good or bad for people who've had my kind of breast cancer.
(And isn't soy the food staple of vegans?) But I've found some really good recipes in this book that are well suited to anyone. This is one of them.
This serves 8-10 as a side dish
1 kg-ish scrubbed, peeled, and small-cubed potatoes (keep the peels!)
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 c lemon juice
the rind of 1 of the lemons (optional)
1/4 c roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1 c vegetable broth
2 Tbs fresh oregano (or 2 tsp dried)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp tomato paste (or sauce works fine too)
salt and pepper to taste
1. You can use your potato peels to make a great veggie stock, with other veggie odds and ends out of your fridge. Otherwise, it's great compost.
2. Preheat the oven to 190C, 375F.
3. The lemon rind and pumpkin seeds are my addition to the original recipe, and so are optional. I just like using the rind instead of throwing it away. I use my coffee grinder to grind up the rind + seeds into a powder that I use in all kinds of recipes.
4. Mix the oil, garlic, lemon juice, rind+seed powder (if using), veggie broth, oregano, salt and tomato paste in a large roasting pan (or I used a large lasagne dish). Add the potatoes and mix them around in the liquid until they're well coated.
5. Cover the pan with foil (or if you've run out like I did, be creative! I used a baking tray as a lid). Bake the potatoes for around 30-35 min, regularly mixing them around the liquid to keep them moist.
6. Then, remove the foil or lid and roast them another 15 min or so until most of the liquid is gone and the potatoes are starting to go a little brown and crispy. Just a little.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve up!
Enjoy! Amanda xx
Friday, April 23, 2010
Tomorrow's Saturday! Yay! And I've got just a few plans for the Anzac Day long weekend ... hmmm ... garden bed building tomorrow and my traditional Anzac Thanksgiving on Monday. What's that? Well I have to be true to my American roots ... but who wants to cook a real Thanksgiving in Brisbane in November? So this is my compromise, it's at least autumn here, and a public holiday. But just wait till next week ... lots of Thanksgiving recipes and pictures!
So of course we'll need some energising food to keep us going ... and what better way to start the day than with chocolate on toast. Now this particular recipe isn't the hazelnut and choc spread you can buy at the shops (and we all know what I'm talking about - check the ingredients label sometime) but my interpretation of one I saw in the natural foods shop. I looked at the ingredients as I always do, and thought - hey! I can make this! Here we go.
This will easily serve your whole family for brekkie plus you'll have leftovers. Adapt amounts as necessary. This also makes a realllllly yummy frosting for cupcakes or cakes ...
2 Tbs raw cocoa powder
2 Tbs agave syrup (you could try honey but I'm not sure how solid sugar would go ...)
2 Tbs extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
dash of sea salt
Mix everything together. Put it in a small dish for serving and a small pot for storing in the fridge. I've kept mine in the fridge for a couple of weeks no worries. I haven't costed this out, but it's not as expensive as the $8 jar at the shops, plus I use these ingredients all the time so always have them on hand.
I'd better go, have to pick up some hardwood sleepers for our new garden! Nothing like having a bunch of timber stacked up in your courtyard to get you motivated ...
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I used just over 500g of organic wholemeal flour, which would've cost me $2. The parsley needed to be used up anyway! 4 organic, free-range eggs were $2 ... So 10+ portions of fresh pasta cost me about $4 to make! The amount of organic butter I used in the sauce was about $0.70 (on special), the organic lemon (on special!) was about $0.30, and the organic garlic was about $0.50. I didn't use much cheese, so we'll estimate another $0.50 for that.
So for $6 (plus salad expenses), I got a great pasta dinner plus pasta leftover for a yummy lasagne in a couple of days!
Friday, April 16, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Would you believe I've still got sweet potato puree left over?? I'll freeze the rest today, but since it's getting cool and crisp in the evenings I first wanted to use it to make some hot chocolate.
This is super creamy, super delicious, super good for you stuff - trust me!
If you have kids or picky eaters at home you must must must check out the cookbook I adapted this from: it's called Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food
... it's all about sneaking healthy things (which can often be leftovers) into family favorites. Love it!
And, would you check out this amazing photo? My next door neighbour Dylan is a great photographer and came over to do a chocolate-inspired photo shoot. (Sadly, we learned that day that it IS possible to have too much chocolate!)
Now, if this pic doesn't make you want to have a hot chocolate, I don't know what will ...
Photo by SBM Photography
1 1/4 c milk (whatever kind you have)
1/2 c sweet potato puree
2 Tbs fair-trade cocoa powder
1 Tbs agave syrup or organic raw sugar or honey
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon (if you want)
*use organic ingredients when you can
1. First, go out and buy yourself a good quality organic, fair-trade cocoa powder. Be sure it's unsweetened! Mine was also raw cocoa, which is higher in antioxidants than the processed version. You may have to go to your local natural foods store, but it's fantastic stuff and really not all that expensive relative to regular supermarket brands.
*Also, cocoa powder is much cheaper to cook with than chocolate and much less suspicious than cooking chocolate (which often seems to have weird ingredients in it). So, we'll be using it a lot!
Ok, ok, if you have some regular cocoa powder at home, go ahead and use that up!
2. Got your cocoa powder? Here we go - put everything in a blender and blend.
3. Put your blended chocolate into a saucepan and simmer, or pour it into mugs and pop it in the microwave. This recipe serves 2.
4. I served mine with some grated white chocolate on top and a side of chocolate pieces, but this may be why we over-chocolated ourselves ... so you can have it with or without.
5. If you prefer a cooler version, pour the blended chocolate into popsicle trays** and put it in the freezer. I did this with my leftover hot chocolate (after it had cooled down) and it made amazing pudding/custard-like pops.
** Popsicle trays are another must for a thrifty organic household ... leftover smoothy, yogurt, hot chocolate, juice, and so on can all be made into gorgeous popsicles. I even freeze carrot juice for Nelle, and she loves it!
So wherever you live in the world, treat yourself to a thick, steamy cup of hot chocolate, or a cool, drippy chocolate popsicle. Enjoy!
Monday, April 12, 2010
Last night for dinner I made a sweet potato and pear and prune mash that was really yummy (if you're interested, just boil or steam 4 cubed sweet potatoes, 1-2 cubed pears and 15 pitted prunes together, then mash with salt and butter).
It was super yummy except that I tried to sneak a dash of cinnamon in, and Robbie detected it ... he's not a fan, and I'm always trying to get away with it ...
So the rest of the mash was rejected by the Cinnamon Hater, but we had heaps of leftovers.
What to do with all my beautiful, organic sweet potato mash?
I found the perfect recipe in a vegan-ish cookbook that was actually the first cookbook I ever purchased: The American Vegetarian Cookbook from the Fit for Life Kitchen and adapted it to be not-quite-so vegan. I love butter too much!
2 c whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 c cold, cubed butter
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1 c mashed sweet potatoes or pumpkin or yams*
2 Tbs milk (if necessary)
*mine of course have the offending cinnamon in them already, feel free to add some if you want
**try to use organic ingredients when you can
1. Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F. Line a baking sheet or pizza stone with baking paper.
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the butter cubes and crumble it together with your fingers till it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the oil and mix. Then add the potatoes and mix.
3. It should be a sticky dough ... if it's not, add a little bit of milk. I didn't need to, as my mash was super moist already.
4. Roll little balls of dough about 2 in (5 cm) in circumference, put them on the tray and flatten them slightly. You should get 12 or more scones this way.
5. Put them in the oven for 15-20 min. Let them cool slightly, but not too much! You want them to be nice and warm to melt the butter you'll put on them.
6. These come out (as my friend Justine would say) "stern." So, super-kid friendly as they are. But I melted butter and drizzled honey on mine and they were perfect and not-so-stern anymore. By the way, C.H. didn't mind or taste the cinnamon in the baked version!
Friday, April 9, 2010
My mother in law, Jeannie, and I have totally bonded over thrift stores/op shops/charity shops ... whatever you want to call the magical places where you get to sort through racks and shelves of other people's junk in search of treasures. And you are giving money to charity at the same time! What a concept.
Today at a charity shop in Paddington, Jeannie found a tiara headband and a flowery skirt for my lucky girl (to match the fairy wings that have already been bought ...), and I found these gorgeous little bottles. I think they'll be perfect for some of the cleansers and moisturisers I've started making.
"What?!" you say ... yes, I've started making my own beauty products. It's actually pretty easy. When I got cancer a couple years ago I had a good look at chemicals in my life, and (I'll be honest with you) beauty products are pretty bad as far as chemicals go. Look at the back of any moisturiser bottle and you'll see what I mean ... So I started buying organic cleansers and shampoos and moisturisers, but they can be a bit expensive.
Last month I finally got up the courage to try some recipes from a book on my shelf called Bodyworks: Restoring Wellbeing with Homemade Lotions, Potions and Balms. I'll never look back!
One of the most magical ingredients for cleaning your skin is Coconut Oil. I'd never bought it before this, but now I love it. It has a gorgeous light coconutty scent, it's wonderful for the skin, it tastes great, and it's meant to be good for your immunity and health. And I got a 500 mL jar of organic coconut oil (above) for $8 that will last me for ages.
Here are two of my new standards (adapted from Bodyworks: Restoring Wellbeing with Homemade Lotions, Potions and Balms) for you to try ... I recommend you give them a go for yourself then start saving jars for Mother's Day presents!
3 Tbs coconut oil
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil or apricot kernel oil
*Try to use organic ingredients when you can
Put the oils in a small pot or jar, and mix them. Dip a cotton ball in the mixed oil and gently wipe your eye area. Rinse off with water and follow with your regular cleansing regime. This will cost you less than $1 a batch.
NOTE: It's best to make homemade beauty products in small quantities, to keep them fresh. Try to get organic ingredients when you can, you deserve it! Also try to store them out of the light (which can oxidise some oils) and use a fresh cotton ball or Qtip each time.
*Always keep essential oils out of the reach of children
**Try to use organic ingredients when you can
1. The original way, which is much like making mayonnaise … in which you slowly drizzle a warmed water/honey mix into the warmed oils as you stir, stir, stir. Keep stirring. Drizzle slowly. It should thicken as it cools and you’ll have a beautiful creamy cleanser. (But I’ve never been good at making mayonnaise …). Add the essential oils at the end.
2. The lazy way!
Put all the ingredients into a small bottle or pot and shake, shake, shake! This doesn’t give you a creamy cleanser, but let’s be practical here … when you want to throw this together while your two year old is pulling on your pajama leg it doesn’t really matter if it’s creamy or not. If you do this the lazy way, though, just be sure to shake your cleanser before each time you use it as the honey tends to like to remove itself from the mix.
Also, I was up for something different and added lemon essential oil instead of lavender. Zing!
This cleanser feels a little oily when you rinse it off, but I find that by the time I've dried my face with a towel it feels amazing and not oily at all. In my estimation this organic cleanser will cost you around $2.00 per batch.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
- Mix flour and salt in a large bowl, then add water and olive oil. Mix with a fork until the dough starts sticking together, then use your hands. Once you can get the dough into a ball-like shape, take it out of the bowl and knead it on a lightly floured bench top (or cutting board).
- You are only going to have to knead until the dough is smooth (see the photo). It won’t take long, I promise. I’m not a big fan of kneading, so trust me when I say this is really minimal here. If it’s too sticky (as in, it adheres to your hands) then add a little bit more flour. If it’s too dry (as in, it crumbles) then add a little bit more water.
4. Preheat oven to 200 C, 450 F.
5. Divide dough into 12-ish balls, then one by one roll them out as thinly as you can. If you have a pasta maker, use it on the thickest setting (mine is “7”) for really great, shall I say "meaty" crackers in no time at all. (The original recipe goes for much thinner ones but I like mine to have a certain heft to them.) Don’t worry about making them look perfect … I remember having thick, curvy crackers with dips as an appetizer at a fancy restaurant and the rustic look was great.
6. Lay your rolled out crackers on a warmed pizza stone or baking paper-lined tray, prick them a couple times with a fork (so they don’t puff) and put them in the oven for about 10 min till they’re lovely and golden.
7. Feel free to add seeds or salt or herbs or whatever to these before you put them in the oven. Experiment! I recommend smushing the toppings into the dough a bit, as I've had issues with toppings sliding off after baking.
8. These will keep for a week or so in a sealed container.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Happy Easter Everyone!
We're planning to spend Easter Sunday at Grammy and Grandpa's house... complete with egg hunt and roast lunch and one of our friend Bill's amazing home-brews...
We've done our best these 2 1/2 years to keep Nelle from becoming a sugar addict... and Grammy has been an angel in sticking to the 'rules' (contrary to every one of her grandmotherly tendencies). This year she's even doing hand-painted boiled eggs for the egg hunt!
So in the spirit of Easter I was inspired to make a special treat for Nelle that still doesn't involve chocolate. Basically these are Goodie Balls rolled into a vaguely egg-like shape.... Have fun, you'll get your hands messy!
Happy Easter Goodie Eggs
1/2 c pitted dates*
2 dried figs*
peeled rind of 1/2 orange
1/3 c water
1/2 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 c oats
1/2 almonds (or whatever you have on hand; a mix of nuts and seeds is fine)
*If you don't have these, try prunes or dried apricots
**try to get organic ingredients when you can
1. Put the dried fruit, orange peel and water into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer until the fruit is mushy and has soaked up most of the water. I've used orange rind because I like the idea of using a part of the fruit that doesn't normally get used, but you can substitute orange juice for the water if you prefer.
2. Meanwhile, toast the coconut over a medium heat until it's golden. Put it into a large mixing bowl.
3. Scrape out the pan and toast the nuts over med heat until golden. Grind into a powder in your blender or coffee grinder. Add to the mixing bowl.
4. Grind the oats into a fine powder too, and add to the bowl.
5. If your fruit is ready, carefully remove the rind (it's done its job now) and blend the mushy fruit in a blender or food processor. If it gets too sticky add a Tbs of orange juice or water. Add to the mixing bowl.
6. Now it's time to get your hands dirty! Making sure you aren't going to burn yourself on hot fruit, start mushing all the ingredients together. Squeeze the moist bits in with the dry bits. (Great job for Little Helpers!) When it's done you should be able to shape the mush into balls or eggs or whatever you like. Keep them in the fridge and they'll last quite awhile (unless of course they get eaten!)
7. You could try wrapping little Goodie Eggs in foil so they look alarmingly like chocolates.... I may even save some of those pretty colored foils from any chocolates I may happen upon this year....
NOTE: There is a reason why these are often sold with the coconut or some finely chopped nuts on the outside ... they may be considered unattractive to some! So if you have trouble convincing your Little or friends to try them, just roll the ball/egg/whatever in some toasted coconut or crushed toasted nuts before serving.