Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Cooking for the Day

The day began with a nutritious omelette filled with leftover roasted veg and spinach and ended, feet up and smiling, with a bowl of warm dessert. Time spent in our kitchen often yields much homemade goodness. So it was today ...

A healthy way to start the day with eggs and veggies.
(Just add toast!)

Crunchy, little biscuits for morning and afternoon snacks.
(The smell of them baking wafted through the whole house!)

The beginnings of a flavourful stew that simmered slowly & became dinner.
(And it will be tomorrow night's dinner too;)

  Winter Apple Crumble and homemade Salted Caramel Ice-cream for dessert.
(Perfect partners, these two!)

To be honest, I managed to produce a fair amount of washing up in the process of all this cooking but, and it's an important BUT, I like knowing what's in our food. In this food, there are wholesome ingredients, not fake ingredients. I know what's in it because I made it. Nothing about it was fast. Indeed the stew bubbled along all day and the ice-cream mixture had to be whisked, twice! There is time and effort and love in this food. And, and it's an important AND, it was a delicious day. Well worth the washing up!

I hope you have a delicious day too!
Meg

Monday, 19 June 2017

Pumpkin & Silverbeet Lasagna

I love vegetarian lasagnas. Layered, meat-free, nourishing and tasty. This particular version is one I make a lot when there is an abundance of silverbeet in the Winter veggie patch.


Silverbeet growing in our garden.

Pumpkin & Silverbeet Lasagna

400g mashed pumpkin
4-5 washed silverbeet leaves
300g ricotta
ground nutmeg
500mLs tomato passatta
lasagna sheets
grated mozzerella cheese

1.  Preheat over to 200C.  Grease and line (if you wish) a large, deep lasagna dish.

2.  Finely shred silverbeet leaves then mix together with ricotta and pumpkin in large bowl.
      Season with pinch or two of nutmeg.

3.  Coat base of lasagna dish with some of the tomato passatta.

4.  Lay down enough lasagna sheets to cover the passatta.

5.  Spread out a layer of the ricotta, pumpkin and silverbeet mixture on top of the lasagna
      sheets.

6.  Repeat layers of passatta, lasagna sheets and the ricotta mixture to fill your dish.

7.  Finish with passata and top with grated mozerella cheese.

8.  Bake in the oven until golden brown.

9.  Remove and let the lasagna sit for 10 minutes or so before cutting and serving ... 
      perhaps with some fresh, crusty bread.

A delicious way to use silverbeet!

Silverbeet is one of those leafy green veggies I have learned to love as an adult. I detested it as a child as my Nanna would boil it until it was soggy, limp and devoid of it's vibrant green. This is totally different and delicious! 

Meg










Saturday, 17 June 2017

Sweet & Simple Saturday

What do you have planned for your Saturday?  My plans are for a simple day here at home. I'm looking forward to pottering in the garden for there are seedlings to plant. Lettuce and baby carrot and some more broccoli. I intend on baking too using the juicy citrus that came from a generous friend's trees. I'm thinking orange cakelemon slice and this lovely lime dessert.  There will most definitely be time for reading, to finish off a "sweet" book that I borrowed from the local library.  I'm sure I can find a sunny corner on the verandah, where the boards are warm, to read in. Perhaps I'll doze ...

 Light reading, a little posy of cottage flowers and citrus from a lovely friend's garden.

I love how days like these unfold slowly, behind the blue gates of our place, unhurried and happy just to be here at home.

I hope you have a lovely Saturday too. 

Meg

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

What is Sustainable Food?

There are lots of definitions of the term sustainability. Add the term to the word "food" and you get just as many definitions and arguments. Recently though, I came across a book  in my local library, which I have reread twice and renewed as much as I'm allowed, that I think sets it out pretty clearly with no fancy words or ambiguity. 


Beaut little bananas and a great book!

In his thought-provoking and practical book, Sustainable FoodMichael Mobbs argues that sustainable food is "local, homegrown and you can walk to get it". I don't think a trolley laden with supermarket fare is likely to meet those criteria! What I do think though is that his definition is "food for thought" in terms of evaluating how we currently source our food and what to work towards to make our food supply as sustainable as possible. So, when thinking about the food we eat here, at our place, in suburbia ... 

Lovely Lollo Rosso lettuce growing in our garden.


Homegrown

Our garden grows food. Just outside my back door, running the entire length of our back ramp, is a productive veggie patch. Along the back fence there's a mandarin tree that's just finished fruiting, a passionfruit vine, a new native raspberry, three half wine barrels full of colourful flowers and veg and a tank garden filled with random seedlings that I'm experimenting with. At the bottom of the back garden there's an avocado tree that's growing well and that I hope will supply us with some fruit this year (it dropped them all last year). Running rampant over part of our backyard lawn at the moment is an out-of-control volunteer pumpkin vine with, so far, two maturing pumpkins on it.  Needless to say, we are mowing a wide arc around it at the moment. In amongst all this are herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano.


Tuscan Kale & Beetroot with Calendula in our veggie patch.

Our garden doesn't supply all our food, it doesn't supply all our fruit and veggies either. I can usually include something we've grown in the main meals of the day especially in the milder seasons of our year. (It becomes a real challenge in our Summers' scorching heat.) There are no backyard chickens (much to my dismay) to provide eggs as I'm pretty sure they'd become local food for the local pythons! So, from where do we source the food we can't/don't grow?

Local


Growing food in your own garden or on your balcony is as local as it gets. After that, it's the food in your neighbourhood. Until a short while ago, we used to swap food regularly with a lovely next door neighbour and amazing gardener. Baskets of his produce would appear on our doorstep often and we responded in kind with offerings from our garden and our kitchen. This dear gardener has moved away now, down South to milder climes and more regular rainfall. I miss his generosity, his gardening knowledge and encouragement.


A bunch of bananas from a friend's garden.

A few of our nearby friends grow food too and occasionally, when we have excess, we swap. Mulberries from one dear friend's tree, bananas from another and limes from the bloke down the hill and round the corner. I always bring home fresh fruit after a visit with friends who live up in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and generously share their amazing produce.


A beautiful pumpkin from the little local market shop.

There are farmers' markets close by on Sundays and I visit a little organic market shop, just a ten minute drive from here, that stocks fruit & veg predominately from small farms and cottage producers. There's local honey and breads there too. I find their produce is usually of good quality so I often check their prices. I try to support this little local business because, without the community's support, it will close and then there will be less choice in our area.

Walk to Get It

In under a minute I can walk out my back door, down our back ramp and start picking from the veggie patch. I often walk around my garden munching on whatever is ripe! That's the shortest trip I make to source food. There is a small, well-stocked grocery shop and local bakery that is a twenty minute walk away along our bike path. Great for essentials like milk and bread if we run out. Besides that, and the occasional lime or passionfruit I find overhanging fences on my daily walk, I have to drive to get the rest.


Snow peas growing near the end of our back ramp.

All this matters because, as Michael Mobbs emphasises in his book, "The way we grow, transport and waste food from faraway farms, supermarkets and shops is the second highest cause of climate pollution after coal fired power stations". It's commonly accepted now (I hope) that climate pollution and climate change is a real problem for all of us. In comparison to coal fired power stations, making decisions about the food we eat feels a whole lot simpler!

Do I still buy some of our food from a supermarket? Yes, though not all of it and next to no fruit and veg. I have gradually reduced our supermarket shop over time, little by little, as I've found and made alternatives. We eat much less processed food and that has made a difference I think. Are there other things we could do? Yes, of course. We could expand what we grow here, we could garden on our verge and encourage our neighbours to do that too so that we could all share (Have you heard about Buderim's amazing Urban Food Street?). We could join a local box scheme that sources fruit/veg from farmers on the outskirts of our city. There would be no oranges from half way round the world in those boxes! When you grow some of your own and support local farmers and producers it can make a difference. 

Have you made changes to the way you source your food? If so, what prompted you to do so? 

Meg




























 














Monday, 12 June 2017

Here & Now 13

It's been raining today. The sound of heavy droplets drumming on our roof woke me early this morning. I listened lazily for the longest time, tucked in under cosy Winter covers. It felt such an indulgence!  The rain continued for much of the day but cleared mid-afternoon in time for a short bushwalk. We strolled along under tall eucalypts, all wet bark and dripping leaves, and dodged the many puddles left by the rain on the rocky track. I love the way rain washes and polishes the colours of the forest and leaves raindrop "sparkles" on its leaves...

Raindrops cling to the very thin leaves of a native grass tree.

Sunlight after the rain. 

Raindrops sparkle on pine needles.

Loving //  Every opportunity to wear my woolly Winter jumpers.
Eating //  Generous bowls of warming split pea & bacon soup with thickly buttered sourdough slices.
Drinking //  Hot chocolates ... still with no marshmallows!
Feeling //  Winter's chill on the tip of my nose.
Making //  Big batches of ... soup!
Thinking //  ... of how beautiful raindrops are when they catch the sunlight.
Dreaming //  Of  a campervan holiday in Tasmania to see the snow (and wombats) again.

Now, we are back home again. Outside, the nighttime air is bracing and cold but hereinside our home,  we are snug and warm. I wonder if we'll wake to the sound of more rain tomorrow?

Meg

p.s. If you'd like to share you own Here & Now, you can join in with Sarah over on her gorgeous blog, Say, Little Hen

Monday, 5 June 2017

Winter's Apple Crumble

The weather is Wintery now, cold mornings followed by crisp, clear days and ending with chilly nights that are forecast by the high pink glow of evening skies.  We close the house up early, rug up in our woolly layers and warm ourselves with nourishing comfort foods.

This simple apple crumble is one of those lovely comfort foods I make regularly in Winter. It's delicious served with a big dollop of thick jersey cream or homemade custard and eaten while warming one's hands around the bowl. 

A warming homemade apple crumble.

This version of apple crumble comes from the recipe book, Australian Lifestyle Cookbook, that my mother gave me way back in 1992. I have made it more times than I can count and it remains a favourite. 

Just baked!

While the original recipe uses a 450g tin of pie apples, I make my own stewed apples for it. This time, I used some tart granny smith apples that had been discounted due to a few bumps and bruises. With a sprinkle of sugar and a pinch or three of cinnamon, they were just a good as unblemished apples.

Apple Crumble

                 For the stewed apples:                                                 For the crumble:
                5 large Granny Smith apples                                       3/4 cup plain or spelt flour
                1/4 cup filtered water                                                    3/4 cup powdered milk              
                1 Tablespoon raw sugar                                                90g softened butter
                1 teaspoon cinnamon                                                    1/2 cup coconut or brown sugar

How to make the stewed apple:
1.  Peel, core and thinly slice Granny Smith apples and put into a saucepan.
2.  Add water, sugar and cinnamon to apples and stir to combine.
3.  Place lid on saucepan and heat gently until apples are soft. Stir occasionally.
4.  Take off heat and allow to cool.

How to make the crumble:
1.  Mix flour, powdered milk and sugar together in a bowl.
2.  Cut softened butter into little cubes and put it into the bowl too.
3.  Rub the butter into the dry ingredients using the tips of your fingers until the mixture
     resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Then ...

Grease a mid-size oven proof dish. Spread stewed apples evenly over the base of the dish. Spread the crumble mixture over the top of the stewed apple. Bake in a moderate oven until golden brown. Mmm....

Sometimes, I add finely chopped walnuts to the crumble mix or coconut. You can add sultanas to the stewed apple if you wish too. However you make it though, I hope it warms your tummy and your heart on a cold Winter's night.

Meg











Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Today's Bouquet

A bouquet of flowers "gathered" during happy wanderings through our city's beautiful Botanic Gardens... 

Tiny clusters of sweet flowers.

A salvia bud begins to open.

 A single little native violet.

So beautiful blue irises.

Waxy white blossoms.

Daisy-like petals & Autumn's blue sky.

... I took my time and made sure I "smelt the roses", though I forgot to photograph them!

Meg

Monday, 29 May 2017

This Gardener's Greatest Thrill

There is so much about our garden that brings me joy but the thrill I get, when I take an empty basket out into the backyard and fill it with a variety of fresh, nutritious food that we can then eat is just beyond compare for this here gardener. 

There's a lot in the fresh food we grow. There's the warmth and light of the sun, the water that falls from the sky, the goodness in the soil and in the compost we make, the work of the bees and worms and other little critters too. Our work (though I have to admit that much of the time it doesn't feel like work to me) is in this fresh food too and baskets full of our own just-picked, homegrown goodness make that effort feel so worthwhile.

Picked fresh today from just outside our back door.

I love growing some of our own food. We are nowhere near self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables but we can often include something from our garden in every main meal during the milder months of the year. Today, there were the shredded leaves of silverbeet in our morning omelettes, mixed lettuce leaves in our lunchtime wraps, juicy mandarins plucked from our tree for afternoon tea and lettuce (again), spring onion and herbs in our evening salad. 

Growing food in our garden provides not only delicious nourishment but great joy as well, not least of which is in the eating!

Meg












Thursday, 25 May 2017

A Garden Visitor 10

A quiet presence watched us shyly as we worked in her garden. 

A shy resident of the city farm.

Usually, I write about the beautiful animals that visit our garden but, this time, I was the visitor. Nestled in under the roof of one of the buildings of the city farm, this beautiful little possum watched as we worked in the Permaculture gardens nearby. All of our work and our chatter was probably keeping this sleepy nocturnal animal awake!

We have our own possum here who trundles down our back fence, along our side fence and up into the plane trees that overhang our fenceline. The sounds of his nocturnal nibblings often draws us outside, torch in hand, to see if we can spot him...and we often do...munching away happily on what the trees and our garden have to offer!

I love to see native animals in my own suburban garden. To me, it means that our place here offers a bit of a haven for them in the midst of all these houses, roads and cars that have replaced the natural bush and reduced their habitat. Yes, our resident possum does nibble on a few things I'd much rather he didn't (most recently he made a meal out of the new leaves on every single one of my broccoli seedlings:( but there is room and enough for us both to share. I'll just have to plan a bit better when I replant the broccoli!

Do you have native animals in residence at your place?

Meg



Monday, 22 May 2017

Jelly Bush Honey

Every year, I always bring home a few treasures from the little monthly market on beautiful North Stradbroke Island ("Straddie") where we go for holidays every year. There's always a few bars of handmade soap, a bargain from the secondhand stall, something knitted or woven or sewn by a local crafter and we never leave without some island honey. 

The honey stall is my favourite among all the little market stalls. I love to chat with the beekeeper (whom I've affectionately nicknamed "The Bee Man") about all things bees and I never fail to learn something new about these amazing little insects and their honeys. This year, I brought home a rather special honey too.

Jelly Bush Honey from North Stradbroke Island.

Jelly Bush Honey is thick, oozy honey. It comes from a tree in the Leptospermum family as does New Zealand's medicinal Manuka Honey. The Jelly Bush Honey I bought has an activity rating of 20+.  This rating reflects the antibacterial level determined by tests in a laboratory. As I understand it, the higher the total activity rating, the higher the antibacterial level in the honey. On the side of my little pot of this special honey, it says it can be used as an ointment for wounds and ulcers and that it can be taken to soothe sore throats too. 

As we often soothe our sore throats with a teaspoon of honey or a warming honey and lemon drink, I thought bringing home a little pot of this Jelly Bush Honey may come in handy during the colder months. I used it recently, when I developed a cold, and I found that it did soothe my sore, scratchy throat. And it tasted lovely too!

Jelly Bush Blossom (Leptospermum polygalifolium)
Photo credit ~ John Tann via flickr.com

Straddie's bees forage in a beautiful place and they make beautiful honeys. When we return this Summer, they'll be busy collecting pollen from the Leptospermum's flowers and turning that in to this amazing Jelly Bush Honey. I will bring some home with me again, across the bay.

Meg


Saturday, 20 May 2017

A Saturday Stroll

Saturday often begins with a long, slow stroll along neighbourhood paths. I love setting out to explore with the warm sun on my shoulders, bright blue sky overhead and our Sir Steve dog by my side. Occasionally, I take the camera too and photograph some of the beauty we spy along the way...

 Vibrant Golden Penda 'pompom'.

 A jewel-coloured Hibiscus Beetle.

Seedpods decorate the leopard trees.

The scent from these blossoms perfumes the air.

Autumn yellow tree leaves.

Blossoms and blue sky.

 Zingy limes overhang a neighbour's fence.

 Gorgeous Gordonia or "Fried Egg" plant.

My beautiful walking companion.

Steve dog and I are just about to set out for another walk together. After waking to gentle rain early this morning, the sky is now its Autumn blue and outside beckons. Perhaps you'll have time for your own Saturday stroll sometime today.

Have a lovely weekend.
Meg


Monday, 15 May 2017

Here & Now 12

Autumn has now settled gently around us. Here, our days feel slower with later dawns that 'encourage' a lingering under warm blankets before rising, an indulgence very hard to resist! Autumn's colours, rich golds and oranges and dusky pinks, warm the sky at dawn and dusk and are woven through much of this beautiful season.

 A fiery Autumnal sunrise.

Freshly baked golden pumpkin scones.

Autumnal colour in a Gazania bloom.

Loving //  The breaking dawns of Autumn that set the sky on fire!
Eating //  Pie! Anything piping hot with flaky pastry really...
Drinking //  Frothy hot chocolates in my pretty tea cup. 
Feeling //  Indulged after a lovely breakfast in bed for Mothers' Day.
                         (Avocado on toast and crispy bacon made by my boy and his Dad.)
Making //  Simple crafts like these with materials we have here at home.
Thinking //  Deeply about what sustainability really means after reading this book.
Dreaming //  Of marshmallows for my hot chocolates!

Autumn is my favourite season. I love its slower days, glorious colours, warming foods, turning leaves and crisp mornings. Others are sharing their own Here & Now lists over with Sarah at Say, Little Hen. You might like to join in too!

Have a lovely start to your week.
Meg

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes, it's the simple pleasures that sustain us ...  

 A simple pleasure in a pretty tea cup.

I think we all have those times when overwhelm threatens; when the world seems to be spinning just that little bit too fast; when one feels at odds with that world; when a problem seems so complicated; when too many thoughts impose themselves at once or the to-do list has grown so long that it's run off the end of the page. During those times in my life, I find that it's very simple pleasures that help to restore calm and put things back in perspective.

Here are some of my simplest pleasures. 

walking 
(with Sir Steve dog, on the beach, through a forest..)

reading
(preferably curled up or stretched out with a pillow under my head)

pottering in my garden
(visiting with flowers, watching the bees, planting in the soil ... )

stitching & knitting
(just concentrating on one stitch at a time)

a slowly sipped drink 
(currently a frothy hot chocolate in a pretty tea cup)

listening to music
(anything that's my favourite)

home picnics
(on the grass in my own backyard)


What about you? What would be the simple pleasures on your list?

Meg




Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Most Moreish Popcorn

Sweet, salty, nutty, homemade caramelly popcorn. A most moreish snack. It was so yummy, in fact, that it was impossible to photograph in any kind of stylish way because it was gobbled up so quickly. Popcorn elves! 

A most moreish snack.

I tinkered just a little with this recipe, for a Salted Caramel Rocky Road Popcorn, from Jemma over at The Healthy Journey, to get a more simplified version to work in with what I had in my pantry. 


Caramelly Popcorn 
*not suitable for those with nut allergy*

Ingredients:

6 cups freshly popped popcorn
4 Tablespoons coconut oil
4 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons crunchy peanut butter  (or smooth if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

1.  Place freshly popped popcorn in a large bowl.

2. Melt coconut oil in a small saucepan.

3.  Add maple syrup, peanut butter and salt.

4.  Combine over a low heat until blended into a smooth caramelly sauce.


Little crunchy peanut pieces in caramelly sauce
because I used crunchy peanut butter.

5.  Pour sauce over freshly popped popcorn.

6.  Mix until popcorn is coated evenly with caramelly sauce.

7.  Spread out evenly on a lined tray and place in freezer until set. 
     (This doesn't take very long!)

8.  Remove from freezer once set. Break into small clusters and keep in airtight container
      in the fridge. 

     * Keep a close eye on it because it will otherwise disappear.*
Popcorn elves!


Meg














Monday, 8 May 2017

Flower Pot Hearts

Pretty beads and some thin, flexible wire is all you need to make whimsical flower pot hearts. (A pair of pliers comes in handy too!)

A flower pot heart ... in a flower pot!

I came across this tutorial, for Whimsical Floral Sticks, when searching for something my son could make for his Grandmothers for Mothers' Day with materials we already had here at home. 

The pretty beads we used for our flower pot hearts.

We made our flower pot hearts with beads, rescued from broken bracelets and last Christmas' fancy bonbon ties, and some wire from hubby's stash. (Pliers came in handy for cutting and twisting the wire.) This is the result of our crafting:

Two pretty flower pot hearts. 

This is a very simple idea that is easy for a child to make with minimal help. They make a sweet little gift and add a touch of extra love to a potted flower or herb. 

Meg