Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dish of the Day & Spelt Carrot Cake Muffins

Muffins are so Monday. If you can get yourself out of bed, and get these into the oven, you are going to have a good week. Guaranteed.


Imagine this:
You have breakfast (all together, at the table, with heaps of butter for the muffins and a coffee for the grown ups). You pack lunches (healthy ones, with lots of colour and texture). You drop the kids at kindy. You get into work. You smile at all your co-workers - because out of all of you, who else made muffins this morning? No one. That's right - just you. Be proud.

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Spelt Carrot Cake Muffins

Makes 10-12 muffins (depending on how overly-generous you are early in the filling of muffin cups)
10 min prep + 15 min baking

Adapted from Deceptively Delicious

The ingredients
1/4 c rapadura sugar
1/4 c olive oil
1 egg
juice of 1/2 an orange
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/4 c chopped dried apricots
1/4 c chopped prunes
2 c wholemeal spelt flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

+ one lovely thrifted dish, to hold your muffins

*Try to use organic ingredients when you can, and unsulphured dried apricots.

**You can substitute brown sugar for the rapadura if you don't have any ... but try to get ahold of some. You can also substitute regular wholemeal flour for the spelt, but I encourage you to try the spelt - it makes the muffins so incredibly soft and yummy!

The process
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350 F). Line a muffin tin with paper cups.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, oil, egg, orange juice, vanilla, carrots and chopped dried fruit.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir to combine. Careful not to overmix - that'll make for flat muffins. Gently stir until the batter is all mixed together, wet and dry.

4. Divide into muffin cups. Put into preheated oven and bake for 12-15 min, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean.

5. Remove from the oven, remove from the muffin tray and cool on a rack for a few minutes before eating!

I used all organic ingredients, and my muffins came to about $0.60 each (for 12). 


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Dish of the Day

Oh, and $0.50 for the gorgeous enamel dish you see the muffins sitting in. I love enamel. Want to see some more thrifty finds? I play along here.

Have a great week - muffined or not!
Amanda xx

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ricotta Bread

Don't be scared, but this is real bread. Yeasty bread. Bread that requires kneading. It will take a couple of hours from start to finish to make this bread ... But it's so worth it.

Why? It uses up that last bit of ricotta or cottage cheese or farmers cheese you have in the fridge (and we hate throwing food out). It's kid-friendly. And it tastes sooooooo good.

(this photo is to show you how yummy the bread looks)


I'm going to assume that if you made it past that photo - you're interested ...  Maybe not yet committed - but you want to know more. Fair enough! I was always hesitant to make my own bread, till I found this little book on a sale table in my favourite book store:
Local Breads.

But having always loved good quality bakeries (the world over) ... I was intrigued. Could I make good bread, too? Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

(this photo is to show you that the kids can help, too ... )


And yes, I was standing around taking pictures while Nelle did all the work. But that's beside the point.

***********
Ricotta Bread

adapted from Daniel Leader's amazing book Local Breads
makes 3 small loaves
10 min kneading + 60-90 min rising + 60-90 min 2nd rising + 20-30 min baking

The ingredients
3/4 c warm* water
1/2 c warm* milk
1 Tbs instant yeast
3 1/4 c unbleached plain flour (I've substituted up to 1 c wholemeal flour and it's turned out well, too)
2 Tbs butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 c whole-milk ricotta or cottage cheese** or farmers cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp sea salt

a tiny bit of olive oil
flour, for preventing stickage
baking paper
a pizza stone (or baking tray, if you don't have one)
a cast iron skillet
1/4 c ice cubes

*By warm, I mean so that when you stick your finger in it - it's comfortably warm. Not too hot.

** If you use cottage cheese, drain off the excess liquid first.

***Try to use organic ingredients when you can - particularly the dairy. (Because then you know it's happy cows and it doesn't contain icky extras like growth hormones.)

The process
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl - you can use a breadmaker or a stand mixer for this part if you have one. Otherwise, just use a wooden spoon and your hand.

2. Dust the benchtop with flour and turn out the dough - knead it for about 10 minutes till it's very smooth and very elastic. If you have a breadmaker - use the pizza function to achieve this. Or use a standmixer with dough hook.

3. Transfer your dough into a lightly oiled, clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Set in a warm place to let it rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs, until it's doubled in size.

4. Dust your benchtop with more flour and transfer the risen dough (carefully!) onto it. You don't want to squish the dough too much at this stage. Or knead it. No kneading! Simply cut or pull the dough into 3 equal-sized pieces. Shape them into rounds. Be gentle ...

(Don't worry if the shape is a little odd ... that's part of the loveliness of homemade bread! Plus, you'll get better with practice)

5. Put the rounds onto sheets of baking paper, far enough apart that they won't expand into each other. Cover with a tea towel and let them rise again for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs, until doubled in size.

*Another tip for knowing when they're ready - press on the puffy loaf with your fingertip, and if the indentation you make springs back slowly but surely - it's ready.

6. While the loaves are rising for the 2nd time, preheat your oven to 200C (400F). The baking process for this bread is a little different - because we want a nice caramel-coloured crust we have to do a few things:

- we'll preheat the baking stone (or tray, if you don't have a stone) and the cast-iron skillet in the hot oven
- it will be a hot oven
- we'll add ice cubes to the hot skillet when we put the bread in (to produce steam)

7. When your loaves have risen, slide them (on the baking paper) onto the hot baking stone. Put them into the oven and before you close the door put the ice cubes onto the cast-iron skillet. Close the oven door and bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the loaves are golden.

8. When they're done, slide them (on the baking paper) onto a rack to cool. Try to resist cutting them open for at least an hour. Store in a sealed bag for 2-3 days at room temperature or 1 month in the freezer.

Ricotta bread LOVES butter. Almost as much as I do.

(and this picture is just to show you Nelle's cute wellies)



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How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients, and my 3 loaves (about 300 grams each) came out to about $1.50 per loaf.

So hopefully you feel a little inspired to make some bread this weekend ... get your hands dirty ... put cute vintage aprons on your kids and bake together ...

Amanda xx

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Fairness of Fear


We stand on the viewpoint and I clutch onto the railing with both hands. We look out over the valley. And I wonder - is it fair of me to project my fears onto Nelle? To hold her, white-knuckled, as we wander along the steep path? To look away when the needle goes in my arm?

I want her to be fearless, yet not. I want to protect her, yet let her explore.

I fear she'll get her heart broken. She'll scrape her knees. She'll lose her mummy.

Can I be brave enough to let her develop her own fears?

Amanda xx

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dish of the Day & Zucchini Salad with Vinaigrette


I love this recipe! Sometimes I just make the vinaigrette on its own - or use what's left after the zucchini's all been eaten - and serve over some crispy lettuce. Or any other veggies I have going. (Like cauliflower!)

So easy, and if you've never tried zucchini in a salad - this is your chance!

***********
Zucchini Salad with Vinaigrette

Serves 4
Takes ~20 min prep
Adapted from Delia Smith's Vegetarian Collection

Ingredients
5-6 small zucchinis, thinly sliced
2-3 tsp minced fresh herbs - parsley and chives or mint are nice, but use whatever you've got!
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

*As always, use organic ingredients when you can.

1. Slice the zucchinis as thinly as you can. Boil a pot of water and blanch the zucchini slices in the boiling water for 3 minutes. You want them a little soft but still a little crispy, too. Put the zucchini straight into a colander, run it under cold water (to stop them overcooking) and leave to drain.

2. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette in a small jar - put all the ingredients in, put the lid on, and shake.

3. Pour the dressing over the drained zucchini, mix well, and store in a covered dish in the fridge for an hour or two.

Serve!


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How much did this cost me?

I got my organic zucchinis for $3 - so my salad was less than $1 per serve and 100% organic!


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Dish of the Day

I found this amazing blue enamel colander in a thrift store on our recent road trip ... small country towns are sooooo good for thrifting. I've seen similar in antique stores for gazillions, so was happy to snag this for $5. Love it! Check out some other thrifting goodies here.

Amanda xx

Friday, October 22, 2010

Avocado on Toast with a Twist

On weekends, we used to go to this tiny cafe in West End called Peripheral ... It was so small there were only 2 tables inside, both nestled into the window. Robbie and Nelle would share the baked beans on toast, freshly made and piled high with a melty crown of mozzarella. And I would have the avocado and tahini on toast.

There was nothing else like it. Silky topping on tangy sourdough, freshly cracked salt and pepper on top ...

And then, we came back from a holiday and Peripheral was gone. No more.

But no, no, no! We can't have all this sadness of a glorious weekend morning ... So you'll be relieved to know that I've recreated the breakfast masterpiece in all its glory. And maybe even more glory than the original ... after all, the cafe is gone, so who's to know?




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Avocado on Toast with a Twist

Takes about 5-10 minutes
Serves 2-3

Ingredients
Miso-tahini gravy
1 Tbs miso
1 Tbs tahini
A few Tbs water

Guacamole
1 avocado
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of salt
2-3 Tbs minced spring onion (optional)
2-3 Tbs minced tomato (optional)

Sourdough bread, toasted, to serve.

1. Mix the miso and the tahini in a saucepan over low heat, adding enough water to get it to a peanut-butter paste-y quality. You can also make larger, more liquid quantities as a really amazing vegan gravy!

2. Mash up your avocado with the lime and salt and onion/tomato (if you wish).

3. Put it all together! Miso-tahini paste + avo + sourdough. And coffee, of course.

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How much did this cost me?

Well, I used leftover guacamole and some going-stale bread ... so my brekky was less than $1. And I used up stuff that would've been thrown out!

Have a lovely weekend! (I'm currently at the beach, sitting at a picnic table enjoying the ocean breezes...) If you can't find an ocean then turn on some beachy music and make a great breakfast and pretend!


Amanda xx

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Have a Picnic

My friend Justine has the same birthday as I do ... and this year to celebrate we'll be on a farm in a verdant valley, sipping glasses of red in the sunshine while our hubbies wait on us hand and foot, and our children play contentedly and peacefully ...

or, at least that's the plan.


Currently we're on the road ... driving down to our little Paradise ...

We stayed last night at a lawn bowls club, had a walk around a country town, and then made ourselves a picnic good enough to rival any - on plastic table overlooking the bowling lawn. Which got me thinking ... what makes a good picnic?

It's easy.


1. A mix of colours
As a general rule I try to include at least 3 or 4 different colours - green, red, whatever you've got!

2. A mix of textures
Crunchy. Creamy. Crisp. Chewy. Try to have foods of each texture as part of your picnic.

3. A mix of flavours
Include foods that are tart, sweet, salty, or spicy - and you can put them together in whatever combination you'd like ...

4. Make it pretty
Use dishes and glasses and cloth napkins. Make bouquets out of crisp greens. As far as picnics go, appearance really is everything

5. Share it with your favourite people
And this is the most important part of all!


So happy, happy picnicking - wherever you are today!
Amanda xx

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dish of the Day & Emergency Tomato Soup

We all have those days. I've had a lot of them lately ... mostly due to the fact that it just rained here continuously for about 2 weeks. I know, all you out there living in Vancouver or Seattle or Portland - who am I to complain? Brisbane gets 300+ sunny days a year! (and yes, now I'm bragging ... )

But when I lived in Vancouver, I didn't have a 3 year old. And the rain wasn't of the torrential tropical variety. It makes a big difference, trust me.


So we've had a bit of cabin fever, necessitating a bit more TV than I'm comfortable with ... and new thrift-shop toys coming out of the closet before I'd planned ... but we've survived. And in part - thanks to this soup.

There's something about cold, rainy days that makes me want tomato soup. I'm sure it's because I got a lot of it as a kid - with grilled cheese, of course. But I don't usually stock cans of soup ... and on one particular day when my craving was undeniable there no way was I bundling Nelle up and driving through the pouring rain to the supermarket. I did, however, have passata.

Hence, Emergency Tomato Soup was born.



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Emergency Tomato Soup

Serves 3-4
15 min prep + cooking time

Ingredients
1 800 mL jar organic passata
400 mL water (that's half the jar)
1-2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp sea salt
a few basil leaves, torn
1 Tbs sour cream
a palm-ful of parmesan or pecorino for sprinkling on top

1. Combine all the ingredients except for the basil, sour cream and cheese in a saucepan and warm over med heat until hot. Add the basil and sour cream.

2. Serve up, with grilled cheese or simply warm bread with butter. Sprinkle each portion of soup with cheese. Enjoy!

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How much did this cost me?

Jars of passata are on sale right now at one of my fave organic shops - for $2.49. So it's a terrific time to STOCK UP! Passata is a fail-safe to have around the house for near-instant meals. I prefer it to tinned tomatoes, though it's essentially just unadulterated tomato puree. But it comes in glass jars that are great for storage.

I grew the basil, and the rest of the ingredients probably came to $2 - that cheese can be expensive sometimes. We'll say my soup came to $4.50 or so, for 100% organic tomato soup.

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Dish of the Day

Where, are you wondering, is the thrifted dish? Well, my mother in law talked me into buying these ones, featured above with soup (temporarily) in them. I love them. They're oven-safe, with a touch of classic-rustic to them. Is that even a style? Probably not, but it's the combination I like best!


So bundle up, turn on the fireplace (if you've got one) and make some soup. Oh, and check out some other great thrifty finds!
Amanda xx

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Garden

I just had lunch at a friend's house ... warm lentil soup and slices of fruit and cheese ... but that's not what I'm going to write about today. Today I'm going to tell you about her garden.

After lunch, we all headed into the backyard - my friend and I, our two little girls, (and the baby asleep). The sun was out, for the first time in a week. And I gaped at 8' high tomato plants, and strawberries already fruiting, and a celery forest, and pumpkin vines climbing up kaffir lime tree and fig tree and fence.

All in inner city Brisbane. In a backyard that still has ample room to run around.

It's inspiring, to say the least. And the best part of all? She shares. This is what I came home with ...


So now, the exciting bit ... playing with all the mint and sage and celery and garlic chives and kaffir lime leaves! Ah, the possibilities ...

Oh, I love my friends. Especially those with gardens.
Amanda xx

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jaffa Moisture Blocks

Juanita, if you're reading this ... I just want you to know that you are a lovely friend, and an inspiring photographer, and ... well ... you are never getting your camera back.


My friend Juanita - who just happens to be an amazing photographer - has loaned me one of her old pro-level cameras to play with. Oh, she knows the way to a girl's heart! Especially a girl that's been taking all her photos on a point and shoot. And getting drool all over her friends' lenses and SLRs.

I know - my birthday is in a week ... and I don't think you can drop hints any bigger than mine. But now Juanita has ruined everything. Now I need a new camera and a pro lens. Not that I know how to use it or anything ... but I'm a smart girl, I can learn.


Oh, yes. I see. You're tired of hearing about my Camera Envy? Well, let's move on then.

I've got a great one for you today. This is an astoundingly easy recipe for the best moisture block EVER. It's really amazing - it's creamy and rich but also light. It smells faintly like chocolate. I use it all over - well, let me amend that slightly - on my body, my hands, my face and my lips.

In case you're not sold yet - this moisture block is made out of edible ingredients, is travel-friendly (as in, you can take it on planes because it's solid), and is great even for sensitive skin. Nelle uses it all the time!

The downside to this recipe is that you have to spend a bit of money to get the ingredients the first time around. But you can use most of these ingredients in cooking, too, and these little moisture blocks make great gifts. So think of it as an investment.

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Jaffa Moisture Blocks

Makes about 4 small blocks
15 min cooking time + 30 min cooling

Adapted from Bodyworks

Ingredients
60 g raw cocoa butter, preferably organic
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp avocado oil
1 tsp almond oil
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp jojoba oil
1000 IU vitamin E (this was 2 capsules for me)
15 drops bergamot essential oil (or your choice)

* Use organic ingredients when you can. Especially if you're going to be using this as a lip balm. Be sure you're not allergic to any of the ingredients, too - we can't have you breaking into a rash or anything.

**What's 'jaffa'? It's a chocolate-orange candy here in Australia. But basically the choc-orange combination is referred to as 'jaffa'. A little bit of culture for you.

***I've actually modified the ingredients a little ... taking you back closer to the original, except that the original used regular cocoa butter and 10 drops of lavender essential oil + 5 drops sandalwood or patchouli essential oil. I *have* changed the recipe slightly for the version I'll be selling, but if you want to make this yourself it won't be too different - promise!

1. Melt the cocoa butter gently in a saucepan - and by gentle I mean low heat and stirring regularly. When it's melted, remove it from the heat and add all the vegetable oils and vitamin E. You'll have to prick the vitamin E capsules and squeeze out the contents. Stir well.

2. Let the mix cool down slightly and then add the essential oil. Mix well. I use bergamot so my moisture block has a lovely chocolate-orange scent, but you can try other essential oils if you prefer. The original recipe called for 10 drops of lavender + 5 drops of patchouli or sandlewood.

3. Pour the mixture into small muffin or chocolate moulds and set in the fridge to cool. After 30 min or so the mix should be solid enough to pop out of the tins and store in a jar.

4. To use, rub directly onto skin. Body heat will melt the moisture block just enough to smooth it over. If you live somewhere really warm, you may need to store your moisture blocks in the fridge during the summer.


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How much did this cost me?

If you make little batches, this won't cost you much at all! The cocoa butter is the biggest outlay ... but once you start putting it on your skin you won't want to go back.

So my mother in law reckons I should start selling these little guys. But have I just blown that? Would any of you out there buy these if I was selling them?

Because I really need that camera ...

Have a lovely day,
Amanda xx

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Traditional Peanut Butter Popcorn

I do love living in Brisbane - but I so miss autumn. A real autumn, where the leaves turn and the nights get frosty ... and in just a couple weeks the kiddies will dress up and prowl the streets for chocolate and candy corn and lollipops and tootsie rolls and maybe even the random homemade goodie.

Halloween.



Here in Australia, Halloween just isn't that big. Though you do see a child or two out, our door has never been knocked on for treats, and we live in the city. I'm torn between being a little bit sad, and also a little bit relieved ... because Halloween is the epitome of a conflict I feel all the time. How do I balance between letting my kid be a kid and making sure she doesn't eat too much of the icky stuff? Every time she asks me for a piece of cake I debate this to myself.

And sometimes I just eat the cake myself, to protect her.

So my very temporary kind of solution is to make Nelle a Halloween-ish type of treat that actually has nutrients and fats and proteins in it. Good ones. Maybe it'll become part of our own Halloween tradition.

***********
New Traditional Peanut Butter Popcorn

Serves 4-6
Adapted from Wholefood for Children

Ingredients
1/2 c popcorn
2 Tbs coconut oil

The topping
1/3 c rice malt syrup
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/4 c peanut butter

*As always, try to use organic when you can

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)

2. Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy pot over med-high heat. Make sure the pot has a lid. When the oil's melted, add your popcorn and swirl it all around so all the kernels get coated in oil. Then put the lid on and wait to hear popping.

3. Keep swirling your pot around periodically as you hear the kernels popping - you don't want any to burn. When the popping has slowed down significantly and you can't hear many unpopped kernels in the bottom - remove the popcorn from the heat and set aside.

4. Put all the topping ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over med heat until everything has liquified. Mix well, and remove from heat. Then let the topping cool for a few minutes (so you don't burn your hands in the next step!).

5. When it's cooled down a little, pour the topping over the popcorn and mix it all around with your hands to make sure it's evenly distributed. Then pour the peanut butter popcorn out onto a lined baking tray and put it into the oven.

6. Bake the popcorn for 10-15 min until it's golden brown. You'll have to stir it frequently so it doesn't overcook on any one side. When it's all ready, remove the tray from the oven and spoon your popcorn into whatever bowl you feel up to.

This popcorn seems to store well in an airtight container, if you have any left.




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How much did this cost me?

My batch was all organic - and cost me around $3.50. And didn't cost me an ounce of guilt. Yay!

Amanda xx

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dish of the Day - The First, and Perhaps the Cheapest

As you may have gathered, I'm a bit of a (compulsive) thrift store shopper. I can hardly walk past one without ... being ... tempted. And I was excited to find that there's a whole little community of thrifty-types out there, who like to share what they find. I mean, the only thing better than finding a great bargain is being able to show it off!

So, I thought - why don't I do a Dish of the Day special, once a week or so? To highlight all those wonderful kitchen-y things I've found ... followed by a yummy recipe, of course.

And here's the first.





This little glass is one of my thriftiest finds ever - I got it for 5 cents! And it's the perfect size for snacks or nibblies before dinner or even dashes of Baileys over ice later in the evening. I'm thinking I'll have to use it for an affogato one of these days, too. (Is there any better excuse for ice cream in the morning?) 

Oh, and the peanut butter popcorn you see? Sorry, you'll have to come back tomorrow for the recipe! I didn't include it today only because I was introducing my new column. But in the future I'll try to integrate the Dish of the Day with the recipe!

Amanda xx

Friday, October 8, 2010

Oops.

How many glass jars can I break in a week? Well, so far it's 3. All at different times, too ...

I guess this is what I get for trying to replace all our plastic storage with glass. And perhaps, just perhaps, trying to do too many things at the same time. (Me? Never. ... Nelle? Nelle! Put that down!)





Ok, I'm back. And in case you're wondering what I'm doing with all these glass jars, well ...

I make jam and pickles and chutneys. I like the idea of reusing perfectly good things. And I'm very, very suspicious of plastic.

Why? Well, many of the plastics we use with our food everyday are made with toxic chemicals - and though the jury's out on whether these actually do leach into our food, or actually do damage our bodies' cells ... personally I'm not waiting for the general consensus. If some scientists out there say these things are bad, I'm willing to go with that - to minimise my own (and my family's) risk. Scientists tend to be very clever people (if I do say so myself).

Two of the worst chemicals are BPAs (Bisphenol A) and phlalates. You've probably heard about BPAs because some countries (including Canada) have started outlawing their use in baby bottles. Australia, by the way, hasn't. I'll let you read more about these chemicals in a really good article by Choice - which is consumer advocacy group here in Australia.

But the bottom line is:
Contamination of food is more likely to occur in a) old plastics, b) when you heat food in plastic containers and c) when you store or heat fatty foods in plastic containers. Why? Heat and fats both aid the transfer of the icky chemicals out of the plastic container and into the food.

So what can you do? 
1. Use non-plastic storage containers, especially for fatty foods. I use pyrex or enamel storage dishes.
2. Don't heat up food in plastic containers.
3. Minimise your use of plastic wrap. Try cute paper bags for taking your lunch to work. Or retro metal lunchboxes. (You'll be the coolest kid in university)
4. Avoid getting takeaway coffees in styrofoam cups or in plastic-lined cardboard cups - buy yourself a stainless steel or enamel coffee cup instead, and you'll reduce waste, too.
5. Do more homecooking - reduce the number of steamy Indian curries (for example) you bring home in plastic tubs and you'll be saving money, reducing waste, and limiting your ingestion of toxins. I mean, from the plastics of course ...

And remember, a shard of glass in the foot is worth it now and then.

Amanda xx

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Easy Peasy Sauerkraut

I had all these grand plans to tell you exciting, interesting facts about sauerkraut ... things that might surprise you. Like that sauerkraut originated in China, among the guys working on the Great Wall. (Though I'd imagine it had a different, more Chinese-sounding name ... ). Or that it's fermented with friendly bacteria, like yogurt or sourdough. Really cool stuff, right?

Well, here I sit and I have zero motivation to look for facts about sauerkraut. Truth is, I've just come home from spin class, I've got my pyjamas on, and I'm eating Greek yogurt out of the tub using lemon biscotti as a spoon.

So, you're just going to get a plain old recipe, no facts attached. Sorry ...




***********
Easy Peasy Sauerkraut

makes 1L
10 min prep + 5-10 min pounding + being patient for awhile

Ingredients
1 L glass jar, sterilised via 10-20 min in a warm oven or boiling water - then set aside to cool
1 kg cabbage, cut into very fine strips
2 Tbs sea salt
1 Tbs dill or caraway seeds (optional)

1. Mix the cabbage and the salt in a large bowl. Add the dill or caraway if you like. Use a mallet (or some sort of pounding implement) to crush the cabbage mixture until it starts becoming juicy. Really abuse it - you want lots of juices.

2. When the mix is all juicy, transfer it from the bowl to the jar. Then find something that you can use to press down on the cabbage in the jar. By adding a weight to the top of the cabbage, you're making sure it's all covered by those juices you pounded out *. I used a wide-mouth glass jar + a full water bottle when I made mine. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a cool-ish, dark cupboard for 3 - 5 days. (This is when those nice bacteria start doing their work.)

3. Then, take out whatever weight you've used, put a lid on the jar, and put your sauerkraut in the fridge for another month.

4. When it's ready, be sure to rinse it before you eat it - otherwise you'll end up feeling like you drank salt water. (I know this for a fact. Oops.)

* If you can't get enough juices via pounding and weighting, you can make up a brine solution of 1 Tbs salt per 1/3 c water and top up the jar with it.

This should keep well in your fridge, so don't think you have to eat it all at once.

Sauerkraut loves:
apples, cheese, rye bread, hot dogs, pierogies, sugar + vinegar, and also just to be on its own. I'm sure there are other things, but ... well ... my biscotti is gone, and my yogurt is finished and I really want to go downstairs and make a cup of tea. So, you understand, right?

***********
How much did this cost me?

Well, I bought a monster of a cabbage at the organic shop - for $7. It actually weighed 4 kgs. So my organic sauerkraut cost me less than $2 per litre. Bargain! The only down side is that you have to wait on it. But it's actually a really great feeling when you remember a month later that it's ready to eat!

Try it, seriously. This is a great one for the kids to do, too.

Amanda xx

PS. Try sauerkraut with a dash of rice wine vinegar + a sprinkle of fennel seeds. Yum!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mine

I was actually on my way out of the thrift store when I saw it. An old-fashioned coffee grinder - the kind where you pour the beans in the top and grind them up yourself into a little drawer. You can actually smell the beans being ground up. It even says 'coffee', in case you forget. I spent way over my thrifting budget on it ($15 - eek!). But now it's mine.




And you know what? It doesn't grind as finely as my plug-it-in-and-push-a-button grinder. It's slower, and the ground coffee doesn't always go into the little drawer. But I prefer it nonetheless. Why? Because it makes me feel like the coffee is mine.



Yum.
Amanda xx

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October!

Happy October! It's my birthday month ... helloooooo 35 ... and also it's National Breast Cancer Awareness month here in Australia. There's pink everywhere - banners have gone up, and magazines have started running their special BC editions.

So, I thought, what a perfect time to draw some attention specifically to breast cancer in younger women. Like I was! (Well, I like to think I still am ...)



Only 6% of breast cancer cases are in women under 40, but our cancer tends to be more aggressive and faster-growing ... and as a result, women between 15 - 50 years old are more likely to die of breast cancer than any other cancer. It's crucial to detect it early, and get appropriate treatment.

There are some issues related to diagnosis, though. Because younger women have denser breast tissue, it can be more difficult to detect tumours via mammogram. So breast self-exams are really important! Also, I've met too many young women who weren't diagnosed properly the first time around. Even I wasn't - my diagnosis only came about via a 2nd opinion. Statistically, us young ones are in the minority - so doctors aren't as ready to send us off for scans and biopsies, because lumps in our breasts aren't likely to be anything serious. Which is dangerous. Take control of your own health and if you feel like something's wrong - be annoyingly persistant.

I wrote a little about my own story on a page - http://www.easypeasyorganic.com/p/big-c.html - with some links to information about breast cancer in younger women and also a couple of articles I've been a part of. It's not been an easy road, for sure - and maybe I wasn't even aware of that till I started writing the page above. I still feel all sorts of different things about breast cancer, some of which I hardly understand at all.


But anyway, it's Breast Cancer Awareness month - so here's a little checklist for you:
1. Check your breasts, or check your partner's (if you're not the breast-y one)
2. Donate to a breast cancer charity - be it for research or support, they all need our money
3. Give lots and lots of cuddles, all month long. And tell all your friends and family how much you love them.
4. Try cutting out some of the more common toxins in your life - like buying more organic produce or using vinegar to clean instead of synthetic chemicals or planting a garden.
5. Get out there and do some exercise! Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent breast cancer there is!

If you have some ideas, or want to share a story or link - please post it in the comments section ... we'd all love to hear about it.

Be well,
Amanda

Friday, October 1, 2010

Morning After Cake

Who says you can't have cake for breakfast?


Are you busy this weekend? Well, here's a little idea for you ... whip up this cake. Call some friends. Get wine. Order pizza from your favourite shop, unless that's Dominos ... in which case order pizza from your friends' favourite shop. Make a green salad with a strong vinegarette. Turn on some music, and dance till your friends turn up. 

And if you feel a little sore in the head tomorrow morning, well ... at least you have your breakfast sorted.

***********
Morning After Cake

Serves 6-8 - so make double if you have lots of friends coming over. or if you all plan to share it for breakfast.

Ingredients
The wet stuff
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 c buttermilk or milk that's just going sour or milk + 1/2 tsp vinegar
1 organic egg
zest of 2 oranges
juice of 1/2 orange

The dry stuff
1 1/3 c maize flour 
2/3 c plain unbleached flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 c raw sugar

The drizzle
juice of the other 1/2 orange
1/4 c raw honey

Other stuff
thick cream 

*Try to use organic ingredients if you can, particularly the egg and the orange (because you'll be using the outside of it!)

**Also, this is an adaptation of my cornbread recipe - please don't use polenta here though ... too coarse. If you can't find maize flour you can try using just regular unbleached flour ... though it won't have that corn-ish taste to it, it'll still be cake.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking tin with baking paper (or grease it).

2. Mix all the wet stuff together. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry stuff together. Add the dry to the wet and mix just enough to combine. Pour into the prepared dish and bake in your preheated oven for around 30 min, or until the top is firm and lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

3. Leave the cake in the tin (out of the oven, of course) for 10 min, then extract it and finish cooling on a rack. Meanwhile, make the drizzle and whip the cream (if it's not thick enough already).

To serve:
As dessert - I cut pieces in half and put cream in between them. Put more cream on the top and drizzle your drizzle over that. 

As breakfast - I ate mine with butter and honey. And coffee - lots of coffee.


***********
How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients - and my cake came to just under $3. Cream could break the budget, though ... we have a real fondness for cream around here ...

Have a lovely weekend everyone!
Amanda xx

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