Thursday, September 30, 2010
Which made me think about the concept of permanence and impermanence. How (according to buddhist philosophy) we're not meant to hold on to things, or ideas, or perceptions. How we should observe our own thoughts, and then let them go. Be in the present, the moment.
So here's to all we can learn from our little ones,
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Rain makes me so nostalgic. It takes me back to mossy, other-worldly Vancouver forests. And the slap-slap of my running shoes against wet leaves. And the shhhhhh sound of rain spinning off my bike tires. (I did a lot of exercise when I lived in Vancouver ... ) And curling up, in front of the window, with a cup of tea - taking in the smell of green, of earth, of life.
I love rain.
It may seem a stretch to bring you jam today, because strawberries are inherently sunny fruits. More reminiscent of hot summer days than rain. But I do love strawberries. And jam. And scones.
And what goes better with a warm cuppa on a rainy day than hot scones and cream and strawberry jam?
Makes about 1.4 kg of jam
10 min prep + 30-40 min stove-time + 10 min bottling
1 kg (2.2 lbs) hulled organic strawberries, washed and dried
1/4 c water
4 c raw sugar
juice of 1- 2 lemons (if you use riper strawberries, you'll need more lemon for it to set)
a small plate
4 medium-sized jars with lids
*As always, use organic ingredients when you can - especially for the strawberries, which are known to be quite high in pesticide residues.
1. Put a small plate into the freezer - you'll use this to test for set.
2. Wash some jars and lids in hot soapy water and then put them into an oven at 120C to dry. I use the vacuum seal ones that all my store-bought jams come in ... when you put the hot jam into the jar and put the lid on, the lid will vacuum seal as the jar cools. I've found my jams have lasted really well this way, but if you prefer you can use the traditional heat-sealing method. You'll need different jars and a different technique, but it is considered safer and the jam will keep for longer. Up to you.
3. Put the strawberries and water into a large stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the strawberries are soft. Put about 3/4 of your strawberry mix into a glass* blender and puree, then return to the pot. By not puree-ing all the strawberries, you'll get a lovely texture to your jam.
*I use glass because the mix will be quite hot, and I'm not really very trusting of hot food + plastic.
4. Add the sugar and lemon juice to the strawberry puree and return to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently for another 10-15 min. until the jam starts to thicken up. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn to the bottom.
5. To test and see if your jam will set, pull the plate out of the freezer and put a little spoonful of your jam onto it. If the jam gets thick and jammy and wrinkly - you're done! If not, keep simmering it for a bit longer till it does set. Sometimes your jam won't set - that's ok! Just use it as a sauce instead. Even better for ice cream.
6. All done? Pull your hot jars out of the oven, ladle jam into them, put the lids on and set aside! Make yourself some scones. And a cup of tea.
I've been getting my organic strawberries at the farmer's market - they're 2nds, so only $10/kg! But look at them ... hardly less than perfect. I probably used about $10 worth of strawberries for this batch of jam. The sugar cost me $1 and the lemons I bought for $0.35 each. So ~1.4 kg of strawberry jam cost me less than $12.
How good is that?
If you've got a favourite scone recipe, want to share it with us?
Friday, September 24, 2010
|This, my friends, is amaranth|
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Cookies. I'm so into them lately. Handfuls while working on my computer. Getting a cup of tea - oops, how did that get into my hand? Uh oh, sugar crash ... need another one, I guess ...
You see my problem, if it could truly be called that.
And I'm wondering, what does it say about me as a person that I'm choosing cookies over all other sweets at the moment? Wouldn't it be great if there was a book where you could analyse yourself by your food choices? Like dreams. Look into my inner self. Cookies ... less commitment than cake, faster than brownies, easier than pie ... I'd say efficiency would define it. Cookies have a really high efficiency quotient.
(I won't bore you with the equation, but parameters include: time spent making, deliciousness, quickness of eating, transporability, kid-friendliness). I am a scientist, after all - have to include an equation now and then!
And, well, efficiency pretty much defines me most of the time ... but did I really need cookies to tell me that? Maybe scrap that book idea after all ...
By the way, I should tell you what the PB&C + Q stands for! These cookies are the result of me tinkering about with quinoa flour (Q). I bought it because quinoa is a high protein, good-for-you grain, and I really like the idea of using some of these unusual flours in my baking. I read up on quinoa flour when I bought it, and found that most people reckon it has a strong, somewhat nutty/sesame taste. So, I thought, what better way to use that flavour than in peanut butter (PB) and chocolate (C) cookies?
Makes about 3 dozen (depending on how big you make them)
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c peanut butter
1/2 c raw sugar
1/2 c unrefined brown sugar
1 organic (or free-range) egg
3/4 c quinoa flour
1/2 c unbleached plain flour
1/4 c raw cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
*As always, use organic ingredients when you can. If you don't have quinoa flour, but have quinoa and a coffee grinder or blender - you can make your own flour! Just grind it up. If you don't have sour cream, you can try this out with butter instead. I didn't - I had some sour cream to use up - but I'm sure it'll come out just as lovely with good old butter.
1. Mix together the sour cream, peanut butter, sugars and egg in one large bowl. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. I sifted them, because my cocoa powder and baking soda tend to clump up (and you don't want a big clump of either in your cookie!).
2. Then add the dry to the wet, and stir gently to combine. Cover the bowl and chill for 30 min or so. The dough is fairly moist for a cookie dough, especially as it warms up (the fats tend to go gooey). So fridging helps you make little balls out of the dough. While the dough chills, preheat your oven to 180C (360F).
3. Then grease or line a cookie sheet (or two) and pull your dough out of the fridge. Roll little tablespoon-sized balls in the palm of your hand and set them in rows on the sheet, at least a few cms apart. When the tray is full, use a fork to press down gently on the top of each ball to flatten it slightly. Pop the tray into the oven and bake for about 10-15 min until the cookies are solid-ish (but not yet hard) to the touch.
4. Remove the tray from the oven and let it sit for about 5 min. As the cookies cool down they become slightly more transferable. So after 5 min or so, gently use a spatula to move the cookies onto a wire rack. They freeze really well, so feel free to put some cooled cookies straight in the freezer for a rainy day.
And saying that, I have just this moment remembered that I have some in the freezer! Oh, glorious day!
Recipe dramatically adapted from the basic peanut butter cookie recipe in my 1969 edition Betty Crocker Cookbook.
I used all organic ingredients in my cookies. I had to use up the sour cream, which was left over from dinner - so we'll call that free. I get 800g of organic peanut butter for $10, so that would've cost me less than $1. The sugars together probably cost me $0.70 (the brown sugar being more expensive ... ). The egg was $0.50. The flours were about $1.30 and the cocoa was $0.30. So, I estimate this large batch of cookies cost me less than $4 to make!
And seriously, put some straight into the freezer ... it may a) save tummyaches and b) you'll love rediscovering them another day!
Enjoy your baking,
Friday, September 17, 2010
So now I make alot of my own beauty products. And actually, it's sooo easy and really fast, too. Faster than running down to the pharmacy for another tube of whatever. Make a list, go get these things, and try some recipes out!
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties (and which babies get a good dose of in mum's milk). It's a good saturated fat, but got a bad reputation from the hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated varieties found in processed foods. So stick to the extra virgin or minimally refined versions.
*cook with it - it doesn't break down at high temperatures, it lasts ages, and it's creamy at cool temperatures
*use it for creams like deodorant or chest rub
*use it for cleansers and make up removers
*use it as a conditioner for hair or a moisturiser for skin
Um, just looking at all these cross links and you can see how much I love coconut oil! I actually have two varieties - the extra virgin (which is less processed and much more coconutty smelling) and the refined (which is more subtle, when you don't want a strong scent).
Organic extra virgin olive oil (mine was 500mL for $7)
Olive oil is rich in vitamin E and is known as a heart-healthy fat.
*cook with it
*use it in cleansers and make up removers
*use as a natural furniture polish
*use as a moisturiser for skin or lips or hair
NOTE: store out of direct light if possible
I love when I rub olive oil into something I'm cooking - my hands get soooo soft!! We also used olive oil to get rid of Nelle's cradle cap when she was a baby - just rub some onto the scalp and then use a comb to remove the flaky bits. (Sorry that sounded so disgusting!)
Lavender can provide relief from insomnia, headaches, and also has antihistimine properties.
*put a few drops in your bath for extra relaxation
*add a few drops to your laundry rinse cycle to make your clothes or linens smell amazing
*add a few drops to homemade moisturisers or cleansers
*add a few drops to 10mL apricot kernel oil for a relaxing massage oil
NOTE: store essential oils out of the reach of children and out of direct light if possible
I love the smell of lavender. Though it was one of those smells that repulsed me during pregnancy (along with coffee! what a nightmare that was!) so it took me awhile to get back into it ...
Raw honey hasn't been heated to high temperatures, so it retains all its natural goodness. Honey has antiseptic and antifungal properties, and is soothing on the throat. A truly natural sugar.
*cook with it (or just use it raw!)
*use for mild cuts or burns or fungal infections
*makes a good face mask
*helps soothe sore or dry throats - try 1 Tbs lemon juice + 1 Tbs honey + 1 cup hot water
NOTE: don't give honey to babies less than 12 months old, or as your doctor recommends
One for the cake, one for me ... one for the cake, one for me ...
Tea tree oil (mine was 20mL for $7, but like any essential oil it'll last you ages)
Another great antiseptic and antifungal essential oil. This one comes from an Australian native tree, and has quite a potent smell. So use in moderation!
*add a few drops to your hot wash cycle as an extra disinfectant for towels and linens
*helps the skin recover from shaving or you can apply a drop or two directly to mild cuts or abrasions
*use in conjunction with white vinegar to clean the house - try 1 c vinegar + few drops oil + a bucket of hot water to mop tiled floors or without the water to clean the toilet
*is a natural insect repellant
NOTE: store essential oils out of the reach of children and out of direct light if possible
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Once upon a time ... in a seaside land known as the Sunshine Coast, there was a little fairy princess called Nelle ... and it was her birthday ... and she got a special cake.
Her mummy wanted to make a yummy but somewhat-healthy cake that would not turn the princess into a sugar-crazed monster. And ended up searching the internet at the last minute for a cake recipe that didn't use eggs ... because there were none at all in the fridge. I mean, the castle.
Anyway, this is what I found. A chocolate cake that used cocoa powder instead of chocolate (thrifty!), didn't use eggs, and seemed highly adaptable. Perfect!
Raw cocoa powder, extra virgin olive oil, beetroot, raw honey and strawberries were some of the little ways I enhanced this cake. And look how it turned out! Happy Birthday to my darling princess.
Friday, September 10, 2010
It's Friday night, and I'm thinking of breakfast. What will I have for my two special weekend mornings? Will it be sweet? Or savoury? A standard? Or something new? Or, maybe we'll head out to eat ... at any rate, it's going to involve coffee. Maybe even two coffees ...
Well, this is a great change of pace for breakfast. I mean, you can only have so much homemade granola or scones or waffles or chocolate bread ... ok, maybe not. But this rice is really yummy, and a great way to use up some of that extra rice you made the other day. (I have two containers of it in my fridge right now!)
Plus, I like to mix up my grains a bit. I try not to have the same thing for the same meal everyday - I figure variety is good for the body. Different nutrients doing different things. All good.
about 20 min to prepare
1 1/2 c white rice (I used basmati but you could use brown as well, just adjust the milk volume)
3 c organic milk
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
1 Tbs raw honey
1 Tbs unrefined brown sugar
a handful of berries (as you can see from the photo, frozen is ok too)
*Use organic ingredients when you can
1. Cook the rice in the milk, just like you would normally do with water. Just keep an eye on it when it does the initial boil, and make sure you put the heat right down after that. Add the lemon zest with the rice and the milk, at the beginning of cooking.
2. When the rice is done, stir through the salt, honey and sugar - serve into bowls and top with berries. Maybe even a dash of cream, if you've got some?
Well, my organic rice was $1 (or nothing, if you have some to use up) and the milk was $2. The rest wasn't much at all ... so we're talking less than $3.50 for everybody to have a lemony, fresh, organic breakfast.
Hope you enjoy your weekend, whatever you eat!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Sunday was Father's Day here in Australia. it rained. a warm, spring rain. and my father in law passed away. I told my baby girl that Grandpa lives in our hearts now. I feel sad. and tired. and now and again, strong. and ... I wonder ... what else is there for me to feel? what else will come?
rain is good.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
This time of year is both Father's Day in Australia and my dad's birthday ... so Happy Both, Dad! It's so hard being so far away from your parents, especially around special occasions like birthdays. Although now I kind of have an excuse for late cards and presents, right? Right? Dad?
But to mark the day I wanted to post a recipe for my dad ... even though it's not very sendable, I was thinking of you!
Makes 1 small bottle, which should last a couple of weeks
1 Tbs apricot kernel oil or almond oil
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
6 drops lavender essential oil
3 drops tea tree oil
2 vitamin E capsules
1/4 tsp macha green tea powder
1. Pour all the ingredients into a small glass bottle. For the vitamin E tablets, use a pin to poke a hole in each one and squeeze the contents into the bottle. Shake. You're done!
* Always store essential oils out of the reach of little ones.
Well, shaving is not so great for skin - I mean, you're dragging a sharp object across it, right? So we want something that will a) encourage healing and b) resist infection (or shaving rashes). This little potion seems to do the trick. My R. swears by it. This recipe was inspired by one of my fave books - Bodyworks.
Almond oil is protein-rich, and apricot kernel oil has lots of vitamin A. Both are good for the skin and are great for moisturisers or massage oils. Use whichever you have on-hand.
Lavender is great for healing the skin - it reduces inflammation. So good for damaged skin.
Tea tree is an antiseptic - helps keep just-shaved areas from getting infected.
Green tea has lots of antioxidants (which makes it so good to drink, as well!), which help repair damaged cells.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant as well. If you're unsure of where to get them, mine are from the pharmacy and are sold as health supplements.
Each organic portion will last a couple of weeks and will cost you less than $1 to make. How cheap is that!? Oh dear, that looks bad! I mean, Dad - I'd spend more on you than $1, or even a virtual after shaving oil ... if only ...
Hugs to Dad,
Friday, September 3, 2010
Dear unloved veggies,
I'm so sorry I've neglected you in my fridge drawer. There you sat, silverbeet stems, while your leaves became a tart. And beetroot stems, ditto. And cabbage - well, you've been hanging around for a long while, watching your companion leaves become sauerkraut. Alas, I have mistreated you.
So, I'll make it up to you all. You will not be thrown out, unused. You will become magnificent. You will become ...
Sesame Fried Rice.
Veggies, I would like to introduce you to ground toasted sesame seeds.
This will probably take 30-40 min including the chopping/rice-making time. Unless you use brown rice, in which case add on another 10-20 min.
The ground toasted sesame seeds
Fry 1/4 c sesame seeds (+ optional 2-3 Tbs pumpkin seeds) in a skillet over med heat (no oil) until nicely browned. Take them out of the skillet, add 1/2 tsp salt and grind them to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside.
NOTE: I ground the sesame up because I find in my stirfries/fried rice that they always fall to the bottom and I lose half of them before they hit the plate. This way, the sesame flavour sticks to the whole dish. It's everywhere. In a good way.
1 Tbs coconut oil (use virgin if you want a hint of coconut taste, refined if you don't)
5 c mixed minced veggies - I use a mix of cabbage, carrot, celery, silverbeet or beetroot stems, bok choy, spring onions. This can be flexible, the idea is to use up the veggies that need using up. But remember that some flavours can dominate, so go lightly on those ones.
3 c cooked rice
2 Tbs tamari
2 Tbs ground toasted sesame seeds
+ sesame oil, tamari and ground toasted sesame seeds to taste, for each portion.
1. Heat up the coconut oil over med-high heat in a large skillet or wok. Add the veggies and saute until they are softened (but still crispy). Keep moving them around so they don't stick to the pan.
2. Then, add the cooked rice and stir to mix through. Add the tamari and mix. Then take the pan off the heat and mix through the ground sesame seed mix.
3. Serve into bowls and drizzle each serving with sesame oil, tamari and a sprinkle of the ground sesame seeds. Done!
Make extra rice - you can use it over the next few days for any number of things!
Make extra ground sesame seeds - it'll be so yum on salads or rice ... and I wonder how it would taste on vanilla ice cream?
Make extra fried rice - it's so good for lunches!
Have a lovely weekend!