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Cooking

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Edible Cutlery!

Imagine this… over 120 BILLION pieces of plastic cutlery are used and discarded in India every year, 120 BILLION!!!!!!!  Without an alternative except endless washing of silverware in potentially unsanitary conditions until recently when an amazing mind came up with this idea, edible cutlery.  Made predominantly from millet and spices (or sugar for the sweet variety), these spoons are not only saving the planet but are nutritious and tasty.

I sincerely hope they make it out to this country and the USA where we discard so much single use plastic ware because of our addiction to take away food.  Plastic doesn’t biodegrade (t photo degrades which means it just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic) and leaches toxic chemicals into landfill and ground water and inevitably our oceans.  This is a fabulous alternative and a healthy treat.

Vote For Me!

I am requesting your help.  I would love for you to vote for my blog in the Heritage Bank Savvy Saver Blog Awards.  I did a post with video about making your own Cafe Style Muffin Wraps to save money and everyone seemed to think it was a great idea!

If you need some incentive the Heritage Bank is giving away $100 CASH CARD to the most creative voter.

So it’s a win for you and for me!

JUST CLICK THE PIC TO VOTE

savvy saver

The Lifestyle Category winner (Public Votes) wins $2000 which I plan to put towards constructing a Permaculture Garden which I will use to educate others in Permaculture and Gardening Principles via my Web TV Channel.  So please cast a vote in my direction and I will be sooooo very grateful.

(Voting closes on 9th October 2015)

Julia

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Cafe Style Muffin Wraps

msl-cafe-coffee-muffin

Hey you know those muffins you buy in cafes, how they have that little paper skirt on that is easy to lift away from the muffin? Well a few months ago I discovered that you could buy a box of those little paper wraps from the grocery store.  Weeks later and  I realised this was getting quite expensive (about $4.95 for a box of 24) as I love to make muffins for my son’s lunch box  most weeks.

This is where my frugal and creative self clicked in and I have a short video to teach you how to save yourself some money (better in my Heritage Bank account that theirs), washing up and waste by making your own!

I have written this post for the Heritage Bank Savvy Savers Competition.  The winner is determined by number of votes so I hope you will help me out by voting for my blog post.  If you do the lovely people at the Heritage Bank will put you in the running to win a $100 Heritage Card!!!  Win win!

Have a look and tell me what you think.

Chapter 25 – Try this at Home

Chapter 25
Try this at Home

Since my chapter “Pickled and Preserved” I have had many requests to share the recipes for Eggplant Kasundi and Holy Guacamole Salsa, so I thought that this week , as the projects don’t necessarily keep up with the blogs, that I would share those with you.  Please bare in mind that these taste all that much better when the majority of the ingredients have been grown in the sun in a particular little corner of your own back yard.  So if you enjoy these recipes I hope that it spurs you on to get your own hands dirty and plant at least two of the easiest vegies to grow; the humble cherry tomato and the exquisite eggplant.
Eggplant Kasundi – this recipe was adapted from an eggplant chutney recipe.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup pure olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced finely
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger grated
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon seeded mustard
  • ¼ cup water
  • 8 Lebanese eggplants, or 12 dwarf eggplants diced finely
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
Method
  1. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and cook onions, chili, garlic until softened. Add spice and cook stirring for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook until combined. Add sugar and vinegar and cook mixture until reduced and jam-like. 
  2. Fold through diced eggplant, water and seeded mustard.
  3. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until eggplant skin has softened. Fold through coriander leaves, season to taste.
  4. Pour into sterilized preserving jars.  Great served with cheese on a cheese board, on sandwiches, with egg dishes etc.








Holy Guacamole Salsa

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 25 min
Yields: Serves 6
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Ingredients

  • 6-8 large Roma tomatoes OR can whole tomatoes, drained OR better still two punnets of your own homegrown cherry tomatoes
  • 2 small or 1 medium onion(s), diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2-3 hot chilies, seeded and halved, we use our own homegrown jalapeños 
  • 1/2-1 cup (a handful) fresh coriander leaves, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
  • juice of one lemon or lime, optional
Method
  1. If using fresh tomatoes, add ½ inch of water to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Place cherry tomatoes in whole.  They will break down during cooking at which time you can mash them with a potato masher or fork.
  2. While you dice the onions, simmer tomatoes until water evaporates and tomatoes start to soften. Peel and discard any skins if using large tomatoes.
  3. Toss tomatoes, hot peppers and coriander into a blender container. Blend until smooth.
  4. Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and garlic in hot oil for about 10 seconds; just a flash in the pan.
  5. Add blended tomato mixture to the pan with the onions and garlic and give it a stir.
  6. Season with salt and ground pepper to taste. Add cumin if desired.
  7. Simmer on medium-low for about 15 minutes, or until salsa is reduced and thick. You may need to increase cook time if tomatoes are very juicy.
  8. You can add the juice of a fresh lime or lemon at this point, although it’s not necessary and will temper the salsa’s spiciness.
  9. Serve with tortilla chips, enchiladas, tacos, scrambled eggs, etc.

Pickled and Preserved

Chapter 12
Pickled and Preserved
 
I have been collecting jars for a couple of years now silently hoping that one day my soon to be prolific garden would produce an over abundance of fruit or vegetables that would necessitate my bottling the surplus.  Sadly the filter in my dishwasher has been caked with the remnants of sticky jar labels several times over and the bottom drawer in my kitchen is filled to capacity with unused glass jars and lids, as is a whole shelf in my cupboard at the farm.
I’m sure many of you have had the pleasure of growing cherry tomatoes and have seen how productive their sprawling limbs can be.  But my cherry tomato garden is something else!  Firstly it was never planted by me, it just sprung up from the ground after a healthy dose of chicken poop and mulch.  At the end of a healthy crop of cucumber vines I decided to dig up the garden bed, treat it to a nutrient rich face mask of chicken run clean out and let it sit until I could decide what I wanted to plant in there next.  This particular garden bed has the benefit of the warm north facing brick wall of the three bay shed.  This accompanied by the wire mesh trellis that the cucumber vines clung to for the last six months made the perfect niche for a very healthy crop of cherry tomato trees.  Not bushes mind, trees!  
Not being one for having any knowledge about pruning or thinning out the garden I just let the plants do their thing.  I was amazed that without any training they clung to the brick work and worked their way up the trellis to the top of the garage roof!  Once they surpassed the roof the tops flopped over for lack of support but still continued to produce.  As luck would have it many of the tomatoes grew in between the mesh and the brick work making it very hard for all but nimble fingers to work them out without squashing them during harvesting.  Luckily the gauge in the wire was about a four by four centimetre square so it was tough for small fingers but not impossible.
I filled container after container after container of tomatoes.  Some were so big they were like a baby “real” tomato.  I gave away some and ate a few and was still left with an abundance.  So I took the stalks off, washed them and stuck them in the freezer.  Until just recently a power outage and the need to have some of my containers back, meant it was time to get cooking!
On a trip to the USA last year we rekindled our love of Mexican food, in particular the lovely fresh salsa and corn chips they serve up free of charge to keep you quenching your thirst with Margaritas and beer.  I had made a mental note never to by pre-made salsa again and so I googled a salsa recipe once I got home.  I tried a couple of versions and came up with one that Benny approved of and as close to the real thing as I could find.
In the meantime I had been growing jalapeños for the same purpose and whilst not yet at full height were producing a few that I could throw in the salsa.  So with some store bought coriander, garlic, some more chili, and limes we were away.
I love to have a day to myself to cook and so while I was on a roll I looked up another recipe to use up all the dwarf eggplants that one of my crop circles had produced.  We had been given a jar of Eggplant Kasundi (from the Bramble Patch in Stanthorpe) a middle eastern style chutney, from a guest at the resort and we had just scraped the bottom of the jar onto the last sandwich.  Now those of you who know my husband will be well aware that he has an aversion to vegetables, so for me to get him to eat tomatoes and eggplant in any way shape or form is quite a feat.  So google to the rescue and I found a recipe for this as well.  
All the cooking done, I put the jars and lids in our old oven (otherwise know as the crematorium).  Soon an acrid smell started to emit from the oven and I cracked the door to take a peak.  I had forgotten about the rubberised goo they paint the inside of the lids with these days to help make the seals liquid tight and stop corrosion from the inside contents.  This rubbery stuff was bubbling and black and oozing and smelling out my house now that the door was cracked open.  I grabbed the tray with a tea towel and ran it out into the yard to smolder.
Just a word to the wise, jars and lids are quite nicely sterilised by a couple of runs through the dishwasher and as long as you fill them when they are hot and the contents hot (and the right levels of preserving agents in your recipes etc) then they will be fine and dandy to store for a month in the cupboard until opened.  
Well after all my efforts I made four jars of each and put lovely little printed labels on to show that they were home made with love.  Gave away a couple of jars to a friend, served up some at my latest dinner party and now I have more empty jars and more labels stuck to my dishwasher filter.  Oh joy!

The Pumpkin Patch

Chapter 9
The Pumpkin Patch
 
Gardening is all about experimentation to me.  Perhaps it is more about my lack of motivation to do any research before poking in a seed or planting a cutting, but I am enthralled by the results that very little prior preparation and planning can still produce.  
 
After a recent tour of a friend’s wonderful acreage with organic vegie garden I learnt that one of the best things to control weeds is the planting of running vegetable plants such as pumpkins.  He had a wonderful crop of robust Blue and Kent pumpkins running mad around the bases of his stands of banana trees.  They seemed to be cohabiting quite well and there certainly didn’t seem to be a weed in sight.  
 
Taking this information on board I thought the perfect place to employ this technique was one of the car tyre retaining walls (oh so attractive!) which was both eroding and constantly overgrown with weeds.  
 
We have a number of vegetarian friends (as I may well have previously mentioned) and so I constantly make a big tray of feta, pumpkin and spinach quiche.  Every time I peel and deseed a store bought pumpkin I scoop the seeds into a container to allow them to dry out in the kitchen.  So I had plenty of seeds to propagate in some shallow trays, which soon produced about a dozen healthy butternut pumpkin plants.
 

I know well about caging my vegies when you have free ranging chooks, so after planting the seedlings at the bottom of the tyre wall (thinking they would climb UP it), I put a frame over the plants, covered it with chicken wire and the chookies were not impressed.  From then on the weather was bad and good and wet and bad and eventually with little help from me the plants took off.  And “took off” is exactly what they did… in the wrong direction.  As I watched the plants grow and send out tendrils strangling the “mother of millions” or “cobbler’s pegs” as I had instructed them to do, I also noticed that they were heading downwards towards Brent’s workshop and across the driveway leading to it.  So the tyre hill was still covered in weeds, eroding and UGLY!  The best part is that even though they didn’t GO where I wanted, they did DO what I wanted them to do and we were happy to receive about a dozen lovely little butternut pumpkins which were quickly turned into quiche and so on and so on.
 
Okay so we live an learn.  Back to the original premise.  The top of the tyre wall unfortunately was not retained in any way.  It is the top of the walkway and goes off on a steep slope towards the shed.  So the new idea was to retain a boxed plot at the top of the hill, plants some new seedlings and hope that they would have no choice but to cascade down and give the desired end result.
 
Projects like this really do excite me.  I am even more chuffed when I tell my husband and he asks “how can I help?” rather than telling me it is a ludicrous idea.  So we cut some boards from some rubbish timber lying around.  He helped me run some stakes into the bank to support their weight and we cut some triangle shapes to enclose the ends.  We ended up with a box about two metres long and half a metre wide.
 
I weeded the area as best I could with a little help from the curious chooks, and then it was my job to back fill it with soil.  So I hooked up the trailer to the mower and took it through the gate (closing it behind me) and down to the compost heap.  
 
Each shovel full was teaming with worms which was quite encouraging and I was secretly hoping the curious chooks wouldn’t come down and see what I was doing and get in the way.  I shoveled and shoveled until the trailer was full (no mean feat) and then drove it up to the yard and as close as I could to the walk path which was still a few metres away from the planter box.  Then shovel by shovel I walked all the soil to the box only to discover it was going to take at least another trailer full to come close to filling it!
 
Back again to the compost heap, more hard work, back up to the walk path, and guess who is in the planter box eating all the worms?  There is nothing like a fresh pile of dirt or a heap of garden mulch to get chooks excited!
 
After I finished shoveling in the dirt I shoed the chooks away to plant the seedlings and cover them with mulch.  In quite a hurry I caged the new plants behind a mesh fence and gave them a drink to help them settle in.
 
Weeks have passed.  Much rain has fallen.  The only problem with the location of the pumpkin patch is that at the top of the hill is it doesnt get as much sun as at the bottom of the hill.  The plants are growing and I havent lost one yet but they arent really growing very fast.  I should also mention that it is now winter so maybe that has something to do with it.  Experimentation. Live and learn.

The Spice of Life

Chapter 5
 
The Spice of Life

I have in my mind all these grand ideas about cooking with herbs and spices grown fresh in our garden, but really when it comes down to it my usual kitchen repetoire is very boring and bland.  Not because I don’t love the aroma and the subtle flavours that herbs can add to a meal but when I cook anything a la Jamie Oliver covered in Thyme leaves, Rosemary sprigs or fried Sage leaves I face the same old disappointing comment, “It looks like you dropped it in the grass!”  ARGH! What am I to do?  I have made the most beautiful fresh basil pesto with hand picked leaves, carefully toasted pine nuts and had it go off before it was finished because I am the only one who eats the stuff.  
 
I have even spent ages on a cushion on the deck pulling the tiny coriander seeds off their desiccated stalks to half fill a jar with the potential for a delicious curry.  It was therapeutic I must say, even enjoyable, as it really did represent for me my first “crop”.  But alas, no one else in my family eats coriander.
 
Anyway, regardless of the family’s lack of culinary adventurousness, the first time my sister from Sydney and her partner came to visit our new project, I roped them in to help me plant the herb garden.  We pulled heaps of weeds that had well and truly embedded in what looked like old weed matting (lot of good that did!).  Under instruction I dug the holes, half filled them with organic potting mix and gently eased the little plants out of their pots and placed them into the ground. Collections of local newspapers were placed over the ground and watered in and then topped with a layer of sugar cane mulch to keep in the moisture and repel the weeds.  We did a terrific job in such a small space and I held great hopes for the herbs progress. Weeks later I worked out that I needed to fence out the chickens as they scratched all the newspaper to the surface and I had to do the whole process all over again!
 
Everything flourished for a while and produced my crop of coriander seeds and garnishes for many salads.  Unfortunately with our business being my first priority the garden was left to care for itself. We first lost the parsley (lack of water), the coriander (went to seed way too quickly) and a couple of the sage plants (water again).  I must say though that we have the biggest healthiest rosemary plant that I have ever grown.  I have always chuckled when Jamie Oliver used rosemary sticks to skewer meat… I didn’t even know that rosemary could grow large enough to produce “sticks” as mine always died before the plant grew to get woody.  Now I see marinated lamb kebabs on the horizon!
 
We have since added the egg plants and as mentioned have been rewarded with fruit.  We planted some strawberries that we found sprouting in a strange space in another garden and now we wait hopefully  as they have bloomed with dozens of little white flowers.  
 
I knew that in order for anything to grow prolifically we needed to put in a water reticulation system on a timer because dragging a hose to that part of the garden was a chore which I neglected to do often enough.  
Another couple of hundred dollars later (did I mention we call Bunnings the $200 shop?) and we have all the parts we need; the hose, the risers, the sprinkler bits coupled with an old garden timer we found in the shed.  Now it is just another job for Benny that needs to be scheduled in to his many tasks.  I wonder when it will makes its way up the list of priorities?
 
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