Scones? Yes, please.

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I have never had a great deal of success baking scones but when you add the requirement to be gluten-free into the mix it really becomes a challenge.

A few years ago I acquired this book and I have mastered the scones.  I think the trick is the flour blend which is explained in the beginning of the book.

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I use the following to make 1kg of plain gluten-free flour and use the Kitchen Aid mixer to thoroughly blend the flours before storing in an airtight container.

340g brown rice flour
340g potato starch
200g arrowroot
120g quinoa flour

Here is the original scone recipe from the book.

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Please note that it has 900g of flour so makes a large batch.  I make a half mix because that is what will fit in my mixer.  A half mix makes 16 large scones using my method.

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As usual, I have adapted both the recipe and the method.  I make savoury cheese scones to serve with homemade soup but there is no reason that you could not make sweet scones.

CHEESE SCONES

400ml warm milk
40g psyllium husk

450g gluten-free flour blend (see recipe above)
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese

2 eggs
20ml apple cider vinegar

130g butter

Combine milk and psyllium and set aside. Combine dry ingredients and cheese.  Grate/shred the cold butter into the flour mixture.  Add the eggs and vinegar to the psyllium mixture then add to the flour mixture.  Combine until you have a soft dough.  I use the Kitchen Aid stand mixer for this but can be done by hand.

I use a 20cm x 20cm square tin lined with a silicone sheet and press the scone dough into the tray.

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Using a knife dipped in flour, cut into 16 portions.  These cuts will not remain throughout the baking process but will be a guide for the second part of the baking.  Brush with milk and bake at 180C for about 15 minutes.  The scones will not be completely cooked yet.

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Remove from the oven, lift from the pan and lay on a flat baking tray.  Using the original cuts as a guide, recut the scones and arrange on the tray with the centre ones (least cooked) on the outside and bake for another 10 minutes approximately.  Make sure the scones are spread out to allow them all to fully cook.

Whilst this is far from a ‘traditional’ scone recipe or method, it does provide a very acceptable gluten-free alternative which most people who do eat gluten are more than happy to eat.

Eating In – Pizzas

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I made a batch of gluten-free pizza bases on the weekend and tonight we are having pizza for dinner.

Here are the partly cooked bases thawed and ready to add the topping.  I find that pre-cooking these for about 8 minutes makes them much easier to handle when assembling the pizzas.

001The dough recipe I use comes from this recipe book.

006If you are looking for good gluten-free recipes I would recommend that you look for it in your local library or you can buy it here.  The updated version has a different cover.

Otherwise just make or buy your favourite bases.

I assembled all of the toppings.

002The ice-cube tray contains frozen basil and you can read about how I prepared it in this previous post.

Once the basil had thawed, I mixed it with a small amount of tomato and spread the mixture on the bases.

003Then the rest of the toppings………

004Pumpkin slices roasted with balsamic vinegar, shredded baby spinach, diced salami, sliced olives, strips of red capsicum and topped off with some grated cheese.  I use low fat cheddar with a bit of strong cheese like partmesan to give a bit of added flavour.

005This is the pizza maker which we use and it takes about 5-6 minutes to cook the pizza to perfection.

008One quarter had disappeared before I had time to grab my camera!

The toppings are never exactly the same.  It just depends on what we have.  This is the first time I have used the basil mixture for the base.  I usually just use a tomato mixture and a sprinkle of mixed herbs.  I have also been known to use mango chutney spread on the base.  The only thing limiting you is your imagination.

This Time Last Year………….

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……….well almost.  It was actually 15th October 2013 that I published  this post which was the beginning of a series based on Francine Jay’s book, “The Joy of Less”.

I re-discovered it recently when I was working on adding back the photos to my earlier blog posts.  The series is now complete with photos and I would encourage you to take the time to read all of the posts.  I think there are about a dozen of them.  Even though I wrote them, there were some revelations which have inspired me to keep going on my journey to let go of more ‘stuff’.

The original catalyst for the series was the purchase of a new refrigerator and the fact that it required me to open the door of the overhead cupboard every time I needed to access the refrigerator.  We did have the doors re-modelled and this is what it looks like now.

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STREAMLINE – Everyday Maintenance

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After you have worked through all of the other steps in the ‘STREAMLINE’ process, it is important not to lapse back into old ways.  Just like changing eating (or any other) habits, if your version of minimalism is to be successful it needs to be an ongoing process.  You will have to work at it constantly and be vigilant at every turn.  Clutter in all its forms is insidious and will soon overwhelm you if you do not have strategies in place to stop it at the door, the mailbox and even your email inbox.

Well-meaning friends and relatives may feel sorry for you when they see your empty spaces and want to give you stuff to fill the gaps.

You did not set out to create a cluttered, over-burdened life – it just happened.  So, it could easily happen again.

“No, thank you” is one of the most powerful things you can say in your quest to keep your stuff at the level which suits you best.  Whether it is a freebie bag at a conference, a loyalty card from a store, a copy of recipe or your great aunt’s tea-set – if it does not fit your goals you can politely refuse the offer.

Dining table

I have refused, decluttered and minimised for several years and still know that there is more to go.  I keep a bag/box in the spare room and as I find things to go they are moved to the box which then goes to the op shop when it is full.  Sometimes it takes ages to gather enough to send off and other times there is a flurry of activity and I take several bags in one weekend.  Having a dedicated receptacle for things that are to be re-homed helps me to keep focused.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and would strongly recommend reading “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay for more inspiration.  Please share your thoughts on decluttering and minimalism in general and as well as your personal achievements.

STREAMLINE – Narrow it Down

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This is where it starts to get really challenging.  Now we need to ask ourselves the question, “What is the minimum that I need to live?”  Francine notes that you do not need to worry that you will be expected to sleep on the floor or live in a tent but you do need to challenge yourself.  It is not enough to wave your magic wand and say that you need everything that you have.

There is no magic number of items or even a formula that you can apply.  Everyone’s ‘enough’ is different.  It can depend on your location, family, children, hobbies, upbringing and experiences.

Embracing minimalism is a personal choice.  It is not about depriving yourself but giving yourself the freedom to live and enjoy the moment.  There is a liberating lightness which comes from letting go of possessions so take the time to look around you and decide what you can live without.

Contents of cupboard

Some of things you could consider when attempting to narrow down your possessions:

  • Duplicates – these are easy – you don’t really need 2 (or more) do you?
  • Sentimental stuff – Francine suggests ‘minituarising’ as a way of dealing with these – an example could be a place card, photo, swatch of dress fabric and a dried flower from the bouquet all in a simple frame as a wedding memento rather than keeping a wedding dress and all the trimmings.
  • Digitising – scanned photos in files on the computer rather than shelves full of albums that gather dust.  If the digitised files are well catalogued they are actually more accessible than hard copies.  You can also keep back-ups in different locations in case of disaster.

I do not purport to be perfect in any of these ways but am certainly working on it.  What about you?

STREAMLINE – A Master Plan

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The first and most important thing I need to do with this post is to acknowledge that it is not my own idea.  This is the basis of the book, “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay.

I have mentioned the book previously in a couple of posts here and here.  “The Joy of Less” is a book that I keep going back to and it continues to inspire me.  That is no small feat as it seems that everyone is writing a book on organisation, minimalism and/or decluttering.  Many of them do not offer anything new but “The Joy of Less” really hit a chord with me.  In particular, I liked the philosophy in the early chapters.  This helps you to understand what clutter is, how it affects us and our relationships with it.

However, today I am going to focus more on the actual process of creating a minimalist home which works for you.

S – Start over

T – Trash, treasure or transfer

R -Reason for each item

E – Everything in its place

A – All surfaces clear

M – Modules

L- Limits

I – If one comes in, one goes out

N Narrow it down

E – Everyday maintenance

This is the step-by-step process that Francine uses and to do justice to the information, I plan to discuss each point in depth in separate blog posts.  There will be one every day or so, depending on my workload so keep watching to get the full story.  Some are reasonably clear but other concepts need more explanation.

The important thing to remember about minimalism and decluttering is that it can fit any situation and be as much or as little as you want it to be.  However, if you are reading about decluttering, there is a very good chance that you are feeling the need to unburden yourself for some of your stuff.  Don’t hijack your goals by thinking that you will declutter your house on the weekend.  You can certainly make a start but don’t ever imagine that it is a one-off weekend job!

Tomorrow we will “Start Over”.  I look forward to hearing about your goals and achievements with respect to decluttering and minimalism.

Reprise

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After reading the latest post from Living Simply Free I was inspired to resurrect the following post which I wrote almost 2 years ago.  There was supposed to be a follow-up post which never happened but I will put my mind to it in the next week or so.  Meanwhile, I hope you will find some value in Part 1.  I look forward to your comments.

The Journey So Far………..

I was reading this older post from Zero Waste Home the other day and it got me to thinking about how and when I came to be on the road to a more sustainable existence.  Unlike Bea, I did not have an overnight epiphany from a consumerist lifestyle to attempting zero waste.

A bit of history is probably the best way to start.  I was born a little over 50 years ago when Brisbane was really not much more than a big country town in many ways.  My parents did not own a car, milk was delivered in glass bottles, the greengrocer, fishmonger and baker called in with their produce for sale and supermarkets were still a relatively new innovation in Australia.  We had a wood stove in our modern home which was a mere 6 miles from the CBD.  We kept chickens and grew some of our own food.

As I grew up things changed.  The wood stove was replaced by an electric one, my mother shopped at the supermarket, my parents bought a car and a television.  Nevertheless, we grew up with an awareness that things were not upgraded just because there was a newer, more expensive model.  We were taught that possessions were not easily replaced and that it was important to take care of what you had.  All types of things were mended, repaired, re-purposed and re-used.  They were only thrown out when they truly reached the end of their useful life.

We had new toys but also appreciated the value of home-made.  I remember the excitement when our father made kites for us – from some timber dowel, brown paper (saved from the packaging of something), glue, string and pieces old old sheeting salvaged from the rag bag to make the ties on the tail of the kite.

I learned to knit and sew when I was quite young, although crocheting is something I have never really mastered.  In my teens I learned how to mix concrete as I helped my father.  No-one set out to teach me these things, they were learned by shared experience with my mother, father and extended family.

I believe that although there have been times when I have tended to consume more resources and be wasteful, the essence of who I am and what I believe in comes from my upbringing.

In the late 1980s, with 2 young daughters, I came to realise that there was no way that we could all continue to exponentially use more and more resources and expect that we and future generations could continue on that path.

We were living in Adelaide at the time and I became aware of a conservation group, Gully Environment Network, which was started by Clive and Gloria Bristow.  Gloria wrote, “Why Conservation” which was published in 1979, well before many people took any interest in conservation and environmental issues.  At the time that I met this amazing couple, they were campaigning against the introduction of wheelie bins (240 litre) in our local council area, arguing that the increased capacity (from the standard 55 litre galvanised bins) would encourage waste rather than reduce it.  It is ancient history that the wheelie bins became a fact of our lives but there is a 120 litre option.  However, the action continues.  The Wynn Vale Community Garden was another brainchild of Clive and Gloria.  Gloria was also instrumental in setting up the ReGen Community Op Shop.  The link will take you to the Facebook page where there are more links to articles from the local paper.   Gloria has consistently advocated and led the way with local and individual action rather than reports and studies.  I am proud to say that she has been my mentor in my path to tread more lightly on this earth and try to make a difference.

If you are still reading this missive, I applaud you.  I will write more on my sustainable journey another day.  Thank you for taking the time to read.

What are you doing to move towards a more sustainable future?  Who or what inspires you?  I would love to hear your stories.