Thursday, March 31, 2011

Emergency Gazpacho

Once upon a time, there was a lonely jar of passata*.

That became ...

(cue Spanish music)
(cue Antonio Banderas while you're at it)

As you may have guessed, gazpacho is Spanish. Loved for its * fresh * clean * cool * zing * in those hot hot Iberian summers. Now, I may or may not go to hell for suggesting you make gazpacho out of passata* ... but it certainly makes this little recipe nearly instantaneous.

Refreshing + instantaneous? = happy

*passata is tomato puree. Usually Italian, just tomatoes. A staple.

Emergency Gazpacho
serves 6-8

The time
10 min prep + chilling time

The ingredients
The soup
1 700mL jar of passata (tomato puree)
350 mL water (1/2 the jar)
1 green pepper/capsicum, chopped
1 large clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 c honeydew melon, chopped*
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs white wine vinegar
handful fresh cilantro/coriander

The garnish
1/2 green pepper/capsicum, minced
1/2 c honeydew melon, minced*

*you can substitute cucumber for the melon, but this is a twist on the original that I think you'll like

**try to use organic ingredients when you can

The process
1. Put all the soup ingredients in a blender and whizzzzz till smooth.

2. Ideally, refrigerate the soup for 30 min - 1 hr ... otherwise, serve over ice cubes.

3. Serve into pretty glasses (I use martini glasses sometimes) and garnish.

The cost
My batch of 100% organic gazpacho cost me around $0.75 per serve.

Olé    !
Amanda xx

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The First Year (and Chocolate Pumpkin Cake)

This was a big week.

Our little dog Lupa spent the week in hospital ... having eaten something I definitely didn't make for her. I learned why pet insurance is such a good idea (alas). I learned that this particular Jack Russell is worth more to us than a few measly thousand dollars (eek). And I learned that the dear girl has a (quote) "low pain threshold" - meaning, of course, that she's a wuss.

However ...

I also celebrated the first anniversary of Easy Peasy Organic. (!!) I made cake, and shared it with friends. (Friends who forgive me for never making icing. I know they want icing. And yet I always just bring cream. How lame.)

I celebrated my exploration of who I am, and who I want to be, and what I think I can give to the world - all things that I've opened up to since starting this site. All this writing, all this photography ... it's got my brain fizzing.

(speaking of ... shouldn't I be drinking a glass of champers right now?)

Anyway. What I'm really trying to say is that I'm a different person - a more evolved person - now than I was a year ago. And it's all because I accepted my friend Steph's nudge and started Easy Peasy Organic. So if there's something you've been thinking about doing - do it. If it takes you outside your comfort zone - do it. If it involves buying pet insurance - *definitely* do it.

And now for cake.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Good Advice About Eggs

I almost always break eggs straight into the bowl - with everything else ... sometimes $5 or $10 worth of everything else. Sometimes it's Nelle who 'hatches' the eggs.

But last night, as I started making a cake ... I decided to break my eggs into a separate dish. (for no explicable reason) And you know what?

The first one was rotten.


So let me just say that a waste-less / save-more / thrifty baking philosophy should include breaking your eggs into a separate dish ... just in case.

Now, please excuse me while I go out and buy a lotto ticket.
Amanda xx

Friday, March 25, 2011

Seeing Things

Some days ... when things aren't feeling quite right,

I have to remind myself to open my eyes.
Because along the streets I hurry through everyday, there are lots of beautiful little things ...

Luminescent things.

Human things.

Wild things.

Spilled things.

Precious things.

Prickly things.

Dappled things.

Metaphorical things. 

Fantastical things.

Things I see only when
I open my eyes.

Amanda xx

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Emergency Cheesy Party Crackers

When I say 'cracker' I mean it in the loosest sense of the term ... because there's nothing in these little guys but pure, unadulterated cheese.

So, let's be honest here. These so-called crackers aren't the cheapest ones you can make. And they definitely aren't low-fat.

But ... they taste like melted cheese (!!), look nest-like and sophisticated, and you can have them in the oven in 5 minutes - after which time you can do other party preparations, or have a glass of wine, or whatever ... till they're ready 20-30 minutes later.

Extra bonus? They're remarkably hard to ruin - even if you forget them. Which is handy in my house, since I'm usually trying to do 5-10 things at the same time as baking ...

Emergency Cheesy Party Crackers
makes 24-30

The time
5 min prep + 20-30 min baking

The ingredients
250 g pecorino or parmesan cheese
freshly-ground black pepper (optional)

*Try to use organic if you can. Do not even think about using that weird powdery parmesan that comes in the green plastic shaker.

The process
1. Preheat the oven to 160C (325F) and line a couple of baking sheets with wax paper.

2. Finely grate the cheese into a bowl and mix in 1 tsp pepper (if you want).

3. Using your fingers, take a large pinch of cheese and place it on the baking sheet. Flatten it slightly. And make sure you keep them 2.5cm (1") apart or so.

4. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 min, until they're golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

5. Enjoy them with wine and olives and whatever nibblies you've got to keep your guests (or kids) entertained.

The cost
Like I said, not the cheapest. I try to stock up on organic pecorino when it's on special - and I use organic pecorino just because it's easier to get ahold of here in Australian than organic parmesan. But you can really use any hard cheese for this dish. My set of lovely crackers cost me $6.

The philosophy
And you know what? My personal philosophy is that food shared among friends should happen anytime it can. Even weeknights. Even weeknights when your daughter's been up since 4am. Even weeknights when the house is messy. Even weeknights when you're going to miss Glee because you're feeding people.

(Though if they're really good friends, they'll watch it with you - lifting and swirling pasta out of bowls-on-laps while debating the likelihood of Rachel and Finn getting back together ... )

Love it.
Amanda xx

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Best Way to Start a Morning

In my opinion, the most perfect morning isn't necessarily a memorable one. Rather, it's one where you get to e ..... a ..... s ..... e  into consciousness. Leave your pillow with no regrets. And then ...

it may entail:

Body brushing* (to make your skin tingle).
A warm soapy shower with a soap so minty it sweeps the rest of the dreaminess out of your head.
A hot strong coffee in the thrifted mug that fits your hands just. so.
And some sort of pancake/waffle/scone/muffin/granola at a heavy wooden table in the mottled sunlight.
With bright yellow placemats.
And clothes on, of course. (did I forget to mention that?)

*If you haven't tried body brushing - you must. It's an astoundingly easy way to feel AMAZING, and you don't need much time or money to do it. All you need is a stiff-bristled brush or a rough sun-dried towel. You just get undressed (or as we say in my house - "nudie") and gently rub the towel or brush over all the skin on your body. The only rule - so to speak - is to try to start at the periphery of your body (your hands or feet) and move progressively toward your heart. Then hop in the shower!

Now if you look online, there are a lot of health claims associated with body brushing - and I honestly don't know what's true or not. And do I care if this reduces cellulite? (not really). What I do know is that body brushing feels like it stimulates circulation and lymphatic drainage - which is good. It exfoliates my skin - which is good. And it wakes me up beautifully - which is good.

So treat yourself this weekend. Remember that towel you left out to dry in the scorching sun? Consider it ... an opportunity.

Have a lovely lovely weekend, full of happinesses.
Amanda xx

Friday, March 11, 2011

Carrot and Arame (Yes, I Mean Seaweed) Salad

You may be wondering why anyone would ever buy, use, or eat seaweed ... aside from Bear Grylls who seemed to eat a fair bit on Man vs Wild recently ...

Well, here are 5 good reasons to drop seaweed into your trolley at the natural foods store:

1. It's full of iron and iodine and zinc and calcium.

2. You buy it dry, so you can always have some on-hand for random seaweed needs.

3. Variability in diet is *good*.

4. You will impress your friends, your kids, your partner, and the checkout lady with your daring and novel food choices.

5. It tastes truly amazing in this salad.

UPDATE (27 Sept 2013): Since this recipe, I've found I prefer to use nori sheets instead of arame. Partly it's because I usually have nori on hand for sushi making (and have to specially buy arame). If you decide to use nori, just toast a sheet of it over a hot flame until it starts to crispen, then roll it up and use scissors to cut it into tiny thin strips. Sprinkle over the salad. Yum!

Also, a few more carrot salad options are highlighted here.

Carrot and Arame Salad
serves 2-4 as a side

The time
5 min

The ingredients
4 c shredded carrot
1 c soaked arame (or nori, see UPDATE above)*
3 Tbs almond oil**
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs rice vinegar
handful of fresh chives (optional)
sea salt, to taste

*Arame is a mild seaweed that usually comes pre-cooked and shredded. To rehydrate it, merely put a handful of dried arame in a bowl and cover with boiling water. After 15 minutes it should be lovely and plumped up and ready to drain and add to the salad. Save the water - you can use it to water your garden.

**I love almond oil for salads ... but if you don't have any on-hand, just use another mild vegetable oil

***As always, use organic ingredients when you can.

The process
1. Mix everything together and serve.

The cost
I always try to buy the organic 'juicing' carrots that they sell at the natural foods store. They're much much cheaper, and usually the only reason is cosmetic. (They tend to be knobbly and gnomish, as far as carrots go. But they taste ... like carrots.) Good quality seaweed, from a reputable source, is important - and you'll pay a little more for it. But even so, this salad will come out to only $1-$2 per lovely, organic serve.

Amanda xx
PS. I should note - this recipe's been tested on Absolute Seaweed Haters with resounding success.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guest Post at Frosting for the Cause - Ginger Cookies

(Betcha didn't know that you've got to look really, really closely at an egg, to make sure it's a good one.)

Well, today I've written a guest post over at the charity (charitable?) blog Frosting for the Cause - where 300+ bloggers are uniting to raise awareness for breast cancer. We each share a recipe, a story, some goodies, and donate. And at the end of the year, we'll have raised something like $9,000 just from our own donations. 

But as a woman / partner / mum / daughter / sister / friend who's survived breast cancer, I think we can do better than that. Please go check out the site - and if you can, donate something

And as for my post, I share my own view of my own cancer. And a very yummy ginger cookie recipe - which may be a useful one for your gifting arsenal ... (these cookies are not unlike the ginger cookies I inhaled out of a bag during my own nauseous moments in pregnancy and in cancer treatment).

Finally, thank you to the lovely organisers of Frosting for the Cause, who have been doing an amazing job coordinating all these posts, and who have let me be part of this great idea.

Ok - enough, now! Get over to the site and check it out!
Amanda xx

Friday, March 4, 2011

How to Make a Damn Good Pickle

I always thought I was a jar-half-full kind of girl ... till I took one of those women's magazine quizzes and learned that I'm (apparently) a pessimist. And even though I know those quizzes don't define me - even though I know there's more to me than one. single. label. - I still felt like a failure. 

I mean, I'm alive, right? Shouldn't I be cheery and positive all the time? Obviously not = failure.
(In my mind, anyway). 
So then I sit back with my sympathetic glass of red and wonder: 
Will it damage Nelle to grow up with a 'pessimistic' mother?
Will I cause my own cancer to come back - via sheer pessimism?
and then ... Are these pessimistic questions? 
Ultimately, I realise it'll actually damage Nelle more to have a mum who's incessantly worrying about being pessimistic. And who drinks glasses of wine in the middle of the afternoon ...

So Nelle and I cut the magazine into several hundred pieces and glue them merrily onto coloured paper.

The End.

And now ... how to make the best damn pickles in the universe.

Honeydew Pickles
makes one jar

Before we even start, you get to eat a whole melon - though I wouldn't advise doing that in one sitting ...

When you're done, save the rind! That's where we begin ...

The very best part of these pickles is, of course, their taste. But aside from that - you get to use part of a beautiful fruit that you'd end up throwing out. Melon rind. And though the original recipe uses watermelon, I actually prefer honeydew. This recipe is based around the rind of one honeydew melon.

1. Slice up the melon rind as thinly as possible. Sometimes I use a mandolin to create translucent, paper-thin slices. Sometimes I just use a knife and they end up chunkier. The size of the slices doesn't affect the flavour, just the texture of the final pickles, so don't worry too much.

2. Put the rind into a large bowl, sprinkling 1/3c of salt over it as you go. Then add enough cold water to cover, put a lid on the bowl, and leave it all to soak overnight.

3. The next day, drain the rind and rinse in cold water. Put it into a saucepan with enough fresh water to cover and boil for 5-15 minutes, until tender (this will depend on how thick your slices are). Drain and set aside.

4. In a separate (large) pot, bring 1 1/2c raw sugar + 2 c water + 1 c white wine vinegar + 5-6 whole cloves + up to 1 tsp cinnamon (depending on taste) to a boil. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves then let it boil vigorously for 10 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat, add the rind, cover the pot, and leave for 2 hours or so ... so the rind can soak up all that flavour.

6. I save vacuum-seal jars from store-bought food to use for my pickles and chutneys and jams. For pickles, try to use ones with coating on the inside of the lid - otherwise the vinegar can cause the metal on the top of the lid to go rusty.

7. When you're getting close to bottling your pickles, sterilise a 600mL jar (or a couple of smaller ones) by washing it in hot, soapy water and then drying it in the oven at 100C (200F) for 20 minutes.

8. Bring the pickles back to a boil in their marinade, and then pack them into the hot jar. Top up with the vinegar solution so that the pickles are completely covered. Screw the lid on tightly - and as the jar and its contents cool, the lid will seal itself. Making a very-satisfying and sometimes-startling POP.

*You'll likely have extra vinegar solution left-over, but I always err on the side of having too much rather than not enough. You don't want to have to top up with water.

The flavour of the pickles will develop over a few weeks, so it's best to leave them in a cool, dark cupboard for a month before eating. After opening, store the jar in the fridge and try to use them up within a month or so.

Serve as you would sweet cucumber pickles - with sandwiches, burgers, or if you should happen to be pregnant - ice cream.

The cost
Well, think of this ... instead of running out to buy cucumbers to make traditional pickles, you've given a bit of unloved melon rind a new, happy life. So the main part of this dish is free. All in all, my jar of organic honeydew pickles cost about $1.60 to make.

So hey - it's the weekend ... go out and buy yourself a plump green melon, eat it up, and don't you dare throw out that rind.

Have a great one!
Amanda xx

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Inspiration - On Demand

Ah, writing. Sometimes it flows like a tsunami - words falling like fluid onto cyber-paper in just. the. right. way. And then sometimes I sit at the computer and listen to the clock ticking. Tick, tick, tick, tick. A train pulls into the station nearby. Voices tell their own stories across this street and that. Tick, tick, tick, tick. I know there's a story in my head ... but where? Stuck in a synapse? Hidden between those neurons I killed off on my 21st birthday? (Which, by the way - if I killed them off, are they even still in there? Degraded and wilted? Or is it just a blank space now?) Wherever that story is, it's not coming out tonight. I can sit here and type for an hour, and we'll get nowhere.

So ... I'm going to be terribly exciting and eat some melon and make a cup of tea and go to bed. And I'll have another look for those words tomorrow.

Nighty night,
Amanda xx