Monday, November 29, 2010
We go through a lot of yogurt in our house ... so much, in fact, that I seriously considered buying a share in an organic cow. Well, not really ... but it did give me reason to start making my own.
I do this the easy way, and on the cheap. Whenever I see organic milk marked down at the shop I buy up. Then I make some organic plain yogurt to the tune of 4 L for $3 to $4. (Incidentally, that's about 1/7th of normal price). It stores well, and tastes amazing ... and I can add jam or honey to sweeten it up. But there's nothing in there but milk and culture, and I love that!
(Nelle does too)
20 min heating + 30-60 min cooling + o/night culturing
(but hardly any time actually standing there doing stuff)
2 L milk (whole milk is yummiest)
4 Tbs milk powder (optional - it just makes the yogurt thicker)
1/2 c yogurt (from a previous batch or store-bought)
*Use organic milk if you can ... and if you can get unpasteurised - even better!
+ a cooking thermometer
+ glass jars with lids - I recycle store-bought jam/cream/sauce jars for this
+ lovely thrifted cocktail glasses, for serving
1. Slowly heat up the milk and milk powder in a large, stainless steel pan to 85-90C (185F). I do this on medium heat and just leave it for the first 15 min or so ... then as it starts to get hotter I attend to it with a whisk to make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.
2. When the milk hits 85-90C, take it off the heat and cover until it cools to 50C (120F).
3. Meanwhile, sterilise your jars and lids by washing them in hot, soapy water and then drying them in an oven set to 60C (140F) for 20-30 min.
4. When the milk has cooled to 50C (120F), ladle out 1/2 c and mix it with 1/2 c of yogurt. It's best to use fresh yogurt for this ... like opening your last jar of the previous batch. Now and then you'll have to refresh with store-bought yogurt, just to keep the cultures at their best.
5. Mix the yogurt/milk mixture back into the pan of milk, stirring well. This is where you distribute the yogurt cultures through the whole volume of milk.
6. Turn off the oven, and take your jars out. Ladle the contents of the pan into them, one by one. Fill them up almost to the top, tightly lidding them as you go.
7. When the oven is mostly cool, wrap the yogurt jars in a thick towel and put them into it. Leave overnight (or around 12 hrs, if you're doing this in the morning). Whatever you do, don't turn on the oven! I just find the oven a warm, draft-free place for the cultures to do their thing. Feel free to use a cupboard or cooler or esky or whatever if you prefer.
8. When they're done, they should be nice and thick and (probably) the lids will be vacuum sealed. Store in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks. I haven't had a sealed homemade yogurt go off yet ... but I can't say it doesn't happen. Just use your best judgement.
My organic homemade yogurt usually costs me around $0.75 - $1 per litre.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Melancholy. That's how I feel today, even though I'm sitting at my kitchen bench with the smell of strawberries wafting over me. Even though I've just had a good coffee. And even though I spent an hour wandering around my favourite market. Buying mangoes. A tray of organic mangoes - seconds - for just $15.
What is wrong with me? Seriously, the day could not get much better than this ...
Well I know exactly what's wrong with me ... but I'm a little embarassed about it. So, I'll hold off for a moment and tell you about mangoes. (Um, denial? Or just distraction?)
What do I love about mangoes? There are two wild mango trees a block away from our house. And last year, we harvested about 30 kgs from them ... for absolutely nothing. Well, that's not exactly true - I paid the price in hives, having not realised that mangoes are related to (you won't believe it) poison ivy. The sap of the free-range variety gets you. But a few steroids and some rubber gloves later, my happy relationship with mangoes was restored.
I love mangoes all on their own. Mango chutney. Mango jam. Sliced and dehydrated. Frozen as puree for smoothies or daquiris. In salad with red onion and coriander and chili. Mango toffee. Ah, the options!
Last year there were so many wild mangoes on Brisbane sidewalks and in peoples' backyards that they actually had to send around special rubbish collection to remove all the rotting fruit. They say this year won't be as productive ... so I'm savouring every. single. one.
And as for my melancholy? Please don't laugh. Robbie and I finally finished Lost last night. We started the series (on dvd) when I was pregnant - almost 4 years ago. And since then, we've followed along from the comfort of our bed, on the laptop, with glasses of wine or cups of tea ... now and then rewatching entire seasons ... savouring the end like the last mango.
And now it's done, and I feel a bit sad.
But that's me. I cried when the last Harry Potter book finished. When Old Yeller died. And when Ariel left the sea forever to marry the prince ...
Friday, November 26, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I'm not big on guilt. Maybe it was cancer that did it - gave me permission to do more of the things that I've always wanted. Released me from waiting for that rainy day ... the paid-off credit card ... the savings account.
Whatever it was doesn't really matter. The fact is that now I do more living and less waiting.
I travel. And I do buy things I like. I'm obsessed with cookbooks and thrift stores. And you know how I justify my expenses? Coffee currency.
Cappucinos aren't cheap ... they run about $3-$4 ... and, as you know, I love my coffee. I love going out to places with great coffee and a warm, open atmosphere. I love the sounds of the grinder and the milk frother and the laid back music and the low tones of conversation all around me. I pick nice places, and then the cost of my coffee includes the time I spend there, too.
It's worth it - my brain loves a great cafe.
But, hey, I'm getting a little distracted now.
Coffee currency. When I walk into a thrift shop, and see a gorgeous vintage plate ... or coffee grinder ... or tea pot ... I see how many coffees it costs. Same at bookstores. I peruse the clearance table for goodies like Nigella's Feasts or The World of Street Food. And see how many coffees they cost.
Because the reality is, a coffee is gone in just a few minutes. I might spend an hour or two in a cafe. But I'll use a second-hand cookbook or plate or cast iron pot for years and years. For the cost of only a coffee or two.
Are you with me?
That's my coffee currency. The way I justify spending money. And my life philosophy.
Can you tell I'm in a cafe, right now?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Um, what's kamut flour?
And what's a chapati?
(here's a hint ... )
Kamut is one of those 'ancient grains' that's related to the wheat we use everyday, but never got to be as widely marketable. It's lovely and soft and excellent for baking. And it has a different nutritional profile from wheat - which means that if you can integrate kamut flour into your cooking rotation, you're getting a wider variety of goodness into your body. Which is great, as far as I'm concerned!
And chapati - well, that's just an Indian flatbread. Pretty much made the same way as a tortilla, but with wholemeal flour. In this case, kamut!
And what can you do with these soft and lovely kamut chapatis? Well, I was having a lazy Sunday sort of feeling ... so made them to have with dips: Guacamole. Pumpkin and cream and sage. And tomato and garlic.
But I use these all the time as general packed-lunch wraps ... for burritos or enchiladas or quesadillas ... for falafel and hummus and tabbouleh ... for scooping up curry ...
(oh dear, I am making myself sooooo hungry just now. Please excuse me for a moment ... )
10 - 15 min prep + cook
2 1/3 c wholemeal kamut flour
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 1/3 c warm water
+ extra flour, for dusting the benchtop
+1 tsp oil for cooking
+ some highly functional thrifted serving bowls
* Use organic ingredients when you can. And it's ok to sub regular wholemeal flour if you don't have kamut. Just adjust the water if you need to.
1. Put the flour into a large bowl.
2. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. Stir to mix - and when the dough starts to form a ball, take it out and knead it gently on a floured benchtop. If you need to, add tiny extra bits of water until the dough becomes soft and pliable, but doughy.
TIP: If you have a breadmaker or a food processor, you can let it do the mixing/kneading for you.
3. Let the dough rest for a couple of minutes. Divide it into 12 balls, and get out your rolling pin. Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp oil in a large heavy frying pan over med-high heat.
4. Roll out each ball into a flat, thin round. Mine are probably around 1/2 cm thick ... basically get them as thin as you can without breaking them. They should come out somewhere around 25cm (10").
5. Cook one-by-one in the hot frying pan ... you'll only need 20-30 sec on each side. They should come out with lovely brown spots and should puff up just the tiniest bit. Stack them on a plate in a warm oven, or cover with a clean tea towel.
TIP: I get into a handy pattern where I roll out the next one while I'm cooking the previous one ... assembly line fashion. Oh, and keep it well ventilated. You're likely to burn some flour in the process.
6. Serve with butter and salt, or curry, or dips, or ... well ... use your imagination!
These are so inexpensive, even using organic kamut flour! My batch of 12 cost me around $2. For beautiful, soft chapatis ... with nothing extra added ... this is one recipe you've really got to try!
And my bowls? I got a set of 5 - 3 different sizes, and perfect for just about every purpose known to man - for $4. I love thrifting!!
Have a lovely week!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Which brings me to our recipe for today ... invented, not by me - but by one of the girls on my dormitory floor in my 2nd year of uni.
I have loved it ever since.
*Ready in 5 minutes
The ingredients and the process
1. Toast 2 slices of your favourite wholemeal (or whatever) bread.
2. Smear with peanut butter - preferably a natural, nothing-added variety.
3. Top with dill pickles or sweet pickles or bread-and-butter pickles. (The ones above I made myself!)
5. Laugh, because you never imagined that non-pregnant people could appreciate a combo like this.
6. Return here to comment - and share your love (or hate) of this recipe. Or what you learned at uni. Or both!
Shall I cost this one? Really?
Ok - mine was 100% organic, and came to $1.00 a serve. Even a uni student can afford that!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Ok - I'm not suggesting you use 'poison', just eucalyptus oil. And I'll give you some reasons why. As well as an explanation about the 'poison' thing. (And seriously, I'm going to stop saying 'poison' now)
It's a tree, or actually a whole family of trees, here in Australia. They smell amazing, especially after rain. They're also called gum trees - as in: 'kookaburra sits in the old gum tree ...' Some of them feed koalas. And in your part of the world (particularly if you live in California) - they may be an invasive species. If so, sorry about that.
Is a natural antiseptic and a bronchial dilator (which means it helps you breathe better). It shouldn't be ingested in excessive quantities though, unless you're a koala - which, by the way, is why they sleep 20 hours a day ... they need it, to digest eucalyptus. Australia is the only country to regulate high concentrations of eucalyptus oil with the 'poison' classification - and really it's just a safeguard. Just don't drink it. And keep it away from the kids - like the ibuprofen and the prescription meds.
But, in my opinion, eucalyptus oil is much less scary than many of the multi-chemical, synthetic cleaning products out there.
|Photo courtesy of the Koala Ecology Group at the University of Queensland|
Want to guess what she used to clean with?
Kill dust mites
Add 2 tsp eucalyptus oil to your washing cycle when washing linens or pillows.
Prevent (or remove) mould
Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a cup of hot water - and use to wipe down all the surfaces in your bathroom or fridge or wherever you're prone to finding mould.
Clean the entire kitchen / bathroom
Again, add a few drops per cup of hot water and use to clean the floors, cabinets, benchtops, appliance doors, toilets, the inside of the microwave, windowsills, tables ... basically, everything! I keep a little bottle of eucalyptus near the kitchen sink ... so it's handy when I need it. Sometimes I even just sprinkle a couple drops onto a wet washcloth and use that to wipe up messes.
I love the clean-ness that this solution gives, and the smell is great, too!
Clear your sinuses
When your nose is stuffed up, try putting a few drops of eucalyptus into a hot shower, or into your steam vaporizer. Or make a (non-petroleum based) chest rub.
Use eucalyptus oil to wipe down areas where you're prone to getting ants or cockroaches. Or put drops along cracks where these 6-legged intruders enter. I also put a few drops into the bin (trashcan) before I put a fresh liner in ... it keeps it smelling nicer, as well as being a deterrant to pesties.
So that's all I've got, folks. It really seems understated, considering how much I've been using eucalyptus oil lately. I've begun to associate the smell with Clean. Fresh. And much better for me and the environment (and my wallet!) than the store-bought cleaners out there.
If you have other suggestions for how to use eucalyptus oil, please share - we'd all love to hear them!
Sunday, November 14, 2010
At first, the only thing 'Noosa' about this slaw was that I made it while we were on holiday there ... but then the sound of the palms and Nelle splashing in the pool and a couple of glasses of red wine helped me find the true connection.
It's small town, with big town taste.
It's a little bit hippy, a little bit posh.
And that, my friends, is Noosa Kohl Slaw.
And, by the way, the spelling of 'kohl' is on purpose - I was being (oh so) clever because I used kohlrabi in my slaw. Hee, hee.
Serves 4 as a side dish
10-15 min prep + 30 min (or more) in the fridge
1 raw kohlrabi, peeled and shredded*
1 carrot, shredded
1/3 of a large cabbage, cut into thin strips
1/2 batch of mayonnaise** (or around 1/3 - 1/2 cup) - I leave this flexible because some people like more or less mayo than others
1-2 Tbs grapefruit juice
1 tsp grapefruit zest (I used my grapefruit dust, but you can use fresh too)
salt, to taste
+ a cute thrifted whisk
As always, use organic ingredients when you can.
*If you're thinking - what the heck is kohlrabi? It's a little veggie around the size of a baseball (or cricket ball) and is usually purple on the outside ... it's turnip-y, but grows above-ground. We grew our kohlrabi in our garden, but I often find it at the natural foods supermarket. Feel free to substitute red cabbage, turnip, daikon, and so on, if they're more readily available.
**Yes, I did make mayo on holidays ... I always take olive oil and eggs with us when we're staying at a place with a fridge, so mayo is super easy to whip up.
My batch of 100% organic kohl slaw came out to about $0.50 per serve. Seriously. Now, I did grow the kohlrabi, and the cabbage was given to me by a friend (who had too much cabbage) ... but even if you had to buy those things you could still make this salad so cheaply!
And my tiny whisk - Dish of the Day for today - cost $0.05! Perfect for making mayo ... if you're an elf. Or a toddler ...
If you want to, check out more thrifty finds here.
Or just relax, take yourself on holiday - even if it's just to your deck.
Which reminds me - I've got a smoothie to enjoy in the sunshine.
Ciao for now,
Friday, November 12, 2010
2. Instead, whatever paste you don't use up - spoon into an ice cube tray and pop into the freezer. After the cubes are solid, put them into a freezer-proof bag or jar and store in the freezer. You can use them whenever you need tomato paste, over the next month or two.
Even better, they're in 1 Tbs-ish quantities ... perfect for when you just need a little bit!
And think, you've just saved the world ... by making tomato cubes. Isn't life grand?
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Even after 3 years of being a mum, it's amazing how often I forget the basics. Like, for example, to always have snacks with me. To take Nelle to the potty before we get into the car. And that the perfect antidote for rainy days is baking.
I forget these things, and then the day goes (as they say here) pear-shaped.
So, on this instance, I am so so so thankful that the mum I was chatting to at Nelle's swimming lesson mentioned baking. Of course!
Because, you see, on that day it was raining, and I was dreading our Day-of-No-Plans. Our Day-Totally-Indoors. But instead of tears and tantrums, Nelle and I made cookies.
These cookies. And, to be honest, eating them was totally incidental.
Makes ~2 dozen
15 min prep + 30 min fridge + 15 min baking
2 c kamut flour*
1 1/2 c rolled oats
1 c ground sunflower seeds (use your blender or spice grinder)
1 c rapadura sugar*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 organic, free-range eggs
1/2 c coconut oil
up to 1/2 c cold water
*You can substitute wholemeal flour and brown sugar if you don't have these ingredients on-hand.
**Try to use organic ingredients when you can, especially for the eggs. It's actually much easier to ensure that the chickens are raised in good conditions when the eggs are organic (compared with free-range).
1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and all the wet ingredients (except for the water) in another bowl.
2. Add the wet to the dry, and mix to combine. Then, add as much water as needed to make a dough that sticks together. It'll be a little moist, compared to - say - pizza dough. But it shouldn't be crumbly and it shouldn't be too sticky. (In a little bit, you'll have to roll it out ... keep that in mind)
3. Put a cover on the bowl and put the dough into the fridge for at least 30 min.
4. Preheat the oven to 160C (350F), and line a baking tray with baking paper.
5. Take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into 3-4 segments. Roll each segment out between 2 pieces of baking paper, till it's about 1 cm (1/2 in) thick. Then use your favourite cookie cutter to cut out shapes.
6. Bake the shapes in the preheated oven for around 10-15 min, until they're solid and golden. Remove from the heat and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Store the biscuits in an airtight jar for a week. Or pop some in the freezer for later emergencies!
Using all organic ingredients, you can make these biscuits for less than $4 per dozen.
Hmmm ... all this writing has me hungry. For biscuits ...
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Just so you know, we live in a townhouse in what's known as Brisbane's 'Inner West'. We don't have a huge backyard, or in fact any backyard at all! Out front, we have a little patch of grass, a little patch of deck, and a brick path between them. We have two native trees that block out ... oh, about 60% of the possible sunlight we get.
But we have created ... LIFE. A garden. In our own little space.
We've used hanging baskets to maximise the vertical space we have ... so herbs and tomatoes and even rocket hang from our upstairs balconies.
And then, because that wasn't nearly enough ... we built a garden bed. (And by 'we', I mean a couple of handy friends of ours - thanks guys!). It completely blocks our front door, but it makes use of the best sunlight and ... well, we didn't really use the front door anyway. We're more side-door types.
I love that we can pick our salad. I love that Nelle can pick our salad. Or, rather, she could - if we were to let her loose with scissors.
We have everything netted because here in Brisbane we have beautiful little (native) possums that love to nibble on lettuces, tomatoes, herbs, chilis - anything really. (Oh yes, they love chilis!!)
Friday, November 5, 2010
I really, really, really hate throwing food out. And by food, in this instance, I mean citrus rinds.
Here's what often happens: I get a beautiful organic orange (or lemon, lime, grapefruit or mandarin), use the juice and throw the rest away. It doesn't even go in my worm farm, because I remember reading somewhere that worms don't do citrus. Now, if you've cooked with citrus zest then you know that there is soooo much flavour in there. Locked away in oils between the vibrant peel and that bitter pithy white stuff.
So, I've started saving my rinds. Before I juice a citrus fruit, I quickly remove strips of peel (avoiding the pith) with my veggie peeler. Then, I put the strips on a plate and leave them on the counter for a few days. Or I pop them into the oven after I've just finished cooking something (and it's off, but still warm). And that's all I'd come up with ... it was turning into a bit of a collection. The pack-rat citrus peel collection.
And then I had the answer. I checked out a book from the library called Degustation (by Alain Fabrègues). It's a little fancy for my personal taste, but I thought it might give me some new ideas ... and it did! He blends up his dried citrus rinds into a powder, and then adds them to dishes for that final (zingy) touch. Perfect!
So here's a re-cap:
1. Peel your citrus*. Dry the peels completely - till they are almost snap-able. Smell them - they're amazing. Grind them into a powder in your blender or food processor or (non-coffee grinding) coffee grinder. Smell the powder - it's even more amazing. Store in an airtight glass jar in a dark cupboard.
2. Add a pinch whenever you need the flavour but don't have any of the actual fruits. Or just to finish off a dish. Or in your tea (orange and chai are great together). Or with salt ... for sprinkling. Or in your bath. The options are limitless!
*I would really recommend using un-waxed, organic citrus for this. Wash it before peeling, of course.
Your zesty powder will cost you nothing, because you would've thrown out the peel anyway. And it takes no time at all.
If you have a great idea for using this, share it with us in the comments!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
(Sesame Cookies with Cacao Nibs)
10 min prep + 15 min baking
1/3 c unhulled tahini
1 c rapadura sugar
1/2 c olive oil
1/3 c water
1 c unbleached plain flour
1 c wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c cacao nibs
* Try to use organic ingredients if you can. You can substitute brown sugar for the rapadura, if you don't have any ... and also chocolate chips for the cacao nibs (if you're not vegan!)
1. Preheat the oven to 160C (350F). Line a tray with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients. Then add the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
3. Form small balls of dough and place them onto the baking tray, a few cms apart. Before baking, slightly flatten each using the blunt side of a fork (so you get little grid-marks).
4. Put your cookies in the oven and bake for about 15 min, or until they are golden and somewhat firm.
5. Remove from the oven, let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack.
6. Enjoy with a nice, cold glass of almond milk. Or whatever you fancy.
I made my batch with organic ingredients, and it cost me $6.50 (or about $0.40 per cookie).
Yum. And happy photographer-friend hunting.