Bug-Free Brassicas – Part 2

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Remember this post?

Well, here is the first result of my endeavours.

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One of the things I am passionate about is eating local, seasonal produce wherever possible so this freshly picked broccoli from our own garden was destined to become part of our evening meal.

A simple stir-fry of chicken and broccoli.

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CHICKEN & BROCCOLI STIR-FRY (Serves 2)

1 chicken breast fillet, cut into strips
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1/2 head broccoli, broken into small florets
1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
Oil

SAUCE

2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon powdered chilli
2 teaspoons arrowroot

Heat the oil, saute the chicken until cooked then add the onion and broccoli.  Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce.  When the broccoli is lightly cooked add the sauce and stir until it has thickened and coated the chicken and vegetables.  Stir in the sunflower seeds.

Serve with rice.

Delicious and the money spent on netting the raised beds containing the brassicas has definitely been a worthwhile exercise.

I am looking forward to plenty more meals featuring our homegrown broccoli.

 

Eggplant Pizza

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I make my own gluten free pizza bases and often have slices of roasted eggplant as one of the toppings.

Last night I took a different path and used the eggplant as the bases.   2 separate events led me to try this option.  In fact, this blog post could easily have been titled, ‘A Tale of 2 Julias’.  In 2014 we were privileged to meet a fellow blogger, Julia Davis-Coombs from Creative Economy in the Kitchen.  Julia lives on the other side of the world so it was a delight to meet her when we were on our travels.  Our shared lunch included mini pizzas made with slices of a very large zucchini as the base.  Although I have not re-created this dish, it is a meal I have not forgotten.  The second Julia was a recent online encounter with Julia B. in a group when I was canvassing ideas for a vegetarian meal and I mentioned that one of the vegetables I had on hand was eggplant.  While I did not use her suggestion that night, it seemed ideal when I came to make dinner last night.

EGGPLANT PIZZA

1 large eggplant
Sea salt
Olive oil
Pizza toppings as desired

Cut the eggplant into slices about 1 – 1.5cm in thickness.  Place on a baking tray, lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast for 10 minutes at 160C.

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Remove eggplant from the oven and add toppings.  I used homemade tomato pizza sauce and mixed herbs then chopped mushroom and capsicum (bell pepper) and finally, sliced olives and cheddar cheese.

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Return pizzas to the oven for about 5 – 7 minutes.

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Serve immediately.

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This was a light and tasty alternative to a traditional pizza and perfect for lunch.

NOTE:  You do need a knife and fork when eating these.

 

Keeping it Simple

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This afternoon I posted the following question on a Facebook group.

When I was working I used to menu plan for a week at a time but not so much now.

I have no shortage of ingredients but not too much in the way of inspiration. We eat a predominantly vegetarian and also gluten free. I have eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, carrots, mushrooms and celery as well as all the usual pantry staples.

Ideas?

There were heaps of great suggestions, many of which I will save for another day but this particular one caught my eye.

I’d keep it simple. Roast the veges and toss with GF pasta spirals or chick peas, olive oil, seasoning and toasted nuts. If you’re looking for a flavour hit, Moroccan seasoning and fresh coriander is an interesting twist.

We do not eat a great deal of pasta but I do have some for occasional use.  I don’t keep Moroccan seasoning but a quick Google search revealed that it is ground cumin, paprika, ground coriander, ground turmeric, ground allspice, ground cloves, ground ginger, and ground cinnamon.  I had all of these apart from the coriander, however, I have an abundance of fresh coriander.  I had cooked chickpeas in the freezer as well as the selection of vegetables I mentioned in my original question.

So, I set to work.

Zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and capsicum of a tray drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  I cooked them for about 20 minutes at 160C.

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Chickpeas with Moroccan spices and 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes.

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Once the pasta was cooked I tossed the vegetables and chickpea mixture through the pasta, added a spoonful of olive oil and served it topped with chopped coriander and toasted sunflower seeds.

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This was really delicious and I will definitely be making it again.

Thanks, Mimi.

Midwinter Mango

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It is difficult to believe but I reached a point in February where I felt as though I never wanted to see another mango.  Fortunately, the feeling does not last and we we able to freeze some of the summer abundance.  A few months later and it was time to dive into our frozen supplies.

Mango Chicken Curry

2 chicken breast fillets
1 large onion
1 tablespoon curry powder

OR

1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Fresh coriander, chopped

1 tablespoon oil
1 can coconut cream
2 fresh mangoes

OR

Frozen or canned mango

Cut onion into wedges and chicken fillets into strips.  Heat oil in a large pan, add onion and spices and fry for a couple of minutes.  Add chicken and fry until cooked.  Add coconut cream and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.

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Add sliced mango and coriander, cook until heated through.

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Serve with rice and vegetables as desired.  We had stir-fried bok choy and snow peas.

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Serves 4

What We Grow

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One of the by-products of growing your own food is a need for increased creativity when it comes to meals.  What we eat is at least somewhat dependent on what is available in the garden.

Bok choy, a type of chinese cabbage, is a quick-growing vegetable.  Commercial crops are harvested while they are relatively young and generally sold in bunches of three.  We ate some of our current crop while they were small, however, the few remaining plants are now quite mature and strongly flavoured.

New ways to use up the mature bok choy leaves and stems.

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Freshly picked leaves shredded and sauteed with cherry tomatoes, snow peas and mushrooms for breakfast.

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Tonight I made a vegetarian lasagne with layers of lightly roasted eggplant slices, bok choy mixed with ricotta and finally, crushed tomatoes.

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It was topped with a mixture of parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese and flaxseed meal.

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Served with beans and carrots.

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VEGETARIAN LASAGNE

1 large eggplant, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
Handful of large bok choy leaves and stems, sliced and shredded
180g ricotta cheese
Can of crushed tomatoes
Olive oil
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
Salt and pepper

TOPPING

1 tablespoon grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

Place slices of eggplant on roasting tray.  Brush with a little olive oil and bake at 160C for about 10 minutes – until soft.

Saute diced onion and bok choy stems until soft, add shredded leaves and stir until wilted.  Add vegetable mixture to ricotta and combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add mixed herbs to crushed tomatoes.  Place a layer of eggplant slices in dish followed by the ricotta mixture then tomatoes.  Repeat until all ingredients are used.  Combine ingredients for topping and sprinkle over the lasagne.  Bake until heated through and browned on top.

This is not a definitive recipe but simply what I made today.  The quantities quoted would serve 3 adults.

Last of the Autumn Salad

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You have heard of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’?  Well, this is a little different.

Our meal this evening was Zucchini and Corn Fritters.  You can find the recipe here.

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The accompanying salad was sourced entirely from our garden.  Lettuce, cherry tomatoes and coriander were picked today while the cucumber is the end of the last one which we picked about 3 weeks ago.

We found that cucumber stored really well in the crisper section of the refrigerator.  The lettuce is going to seed but in our mild climate there is a good chance that we will even have some more self-sown ones during the winter months.  There are still fruit on the various cherry tomato plants scattered throughout the garden.  We do not experience frosts here so it is likely that we will continue to harvest a few here and there but it will not abundance we have had during the summer and autumn.  Coriander has self-seeded throughout our garden area and we are thrilled as the flower heads are particularly loved by the bees.

I made the sweet chilli sauce from chillies from my sister’s garden.  The details and recipe are in an earlier post.

Seasonal eating means that we value and appreciate the produce from our garden.  It is probably about 5 months until I next eat cucumber and I know that by then I will be really looking forward to that first crisp crunch.

Money For Jam

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We have all heard of the phrase, ‘money for jam’, this post is about jam for very little money.  Making your own jam is probably one of the best ways to save money.  Commercially prepared jams often contain very little in the way of fruit and ‘premium’ brands are ridiculously expensive.

In the blog post from yesterday I shared how I had sliced and soaked the homegrown grapefruit.

After being soaked for about 15 hours I was ready to make the marmalade.

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Like most jam recipes this one is very simple.  The original from Annabel Langbein is here.  I chose not to use the whiskey.

You will need equal quantities of fruit and sugar and an equivalent volume of water.

For example, I used:

1.2kg of grapefruit Scrubbed, quartered and thinly sliced
1.2 litres water
1.2kg sugar

Cut the unpeeled grapefruit into quarters, then slice finely by hand or using the slicing attachment of a food processor. Place in a wide, non-corrosive preserving pan and cover with 2 litres of water. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, place the pot over a high heat, bring to the boil and boil for 40 minutes. Lower the heat and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then return to the boil and boil for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent the grapefruit from catching on the bottom – you want it to almost catch, but not burn. If you feel it starting to catch, remove it from the heat for a couple of minutes, giving it a gentle stir to stop it burning on the bottom, then continue boiling.

After 55 minutes do a ‘set test’ to check if your marmalade is ready. Chill a saucer in the fridge for a few minutes, then drop a teaspoonful of marmalade onto it. The marmalade is ready when it forms a skin that wrinkles when you hold the plate on an angle. At this point add the whiskey and boil for couple of minutes more to burn off the alcohol.

Pour straight into sterilised jars and seal with sterilised lids. If properly sealed Grapefruit Marmalade will last indefinitely.

To prepare your jars for preserving: For this recipe you will need a selection of jars that will hold just over 4 litres of marmalade. This is a great way of recycling, as the jars and their metal lids can be used over and over again. Wash the jars as usual, then remove the lids and place the lids and jars in the sink. Cover them well with boiling water then drain off the water. Pre-heat the oven to 100°C then pop the jars and lids in for 15 minutes to sterilise. Once removed from the oven, put the lids on the jars immediately so they remain sterile until you are ready to fill them.

The end result of 1.2kg of homegrown fruit, 1.2kg of sugar and about 1.5 hours of my time and we have about 2.5kg of jam added to our stock cupboard.

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Leftover Lasagne

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Not lasagne that is leftover.  It is lasagne made from leftovers.

This post is not so much a recipe but a demonstration of what can be done to minimise food wastage.  A germ of an idea that grew……………….into dinner.

I make my own refried beans and for some reason 2 different containers were opened and in the refrigerator.  I decided that they needed to be used up.

From the freezer I sourced a small container of cooked brown rice and a bag of cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes are from our garden – at least a year ago.

Once the rice was thawed, I heated it then added a beaten egg and pressed the mixture into the bottom of the dish.  Next was a layer of refried beans.

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Next, I headed to the garden to harvest one of the giant bok choy.  The stalks and leaves were chopped separately.  I wilted the shredded leaves in a pan and cooked the finely sliced stalks until tender.

Meanwhile, I made some white sauce.  I use potato starch and besan flour to thicken the mixture so that it is gluten free.  I then mixed in the bok choy.

The tomatoes were simmered and reduced, herbs and seasonings added.

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Then it was time to assemble the remainder.

Half of the bok choy/white sauce mixture then half of the tomato mixture.

Repeat with refried beans, bok choy and tomatoes.

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The final step will be to sprinkle with crumbs and grated cheese and bake until heated through.  I use flaxseed meal instead of breadcrumbs for a nutritious and gluten-free alternative.

This will make 4 generous adult serves so we will have half of it for dinner and the remainder for another meal.

 

 

Pandemic and Packaging

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As Plastic-Free July looms on the horizon, perhaps it is time consider one of the little-discussed ‘victims’ of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

For well over 20 years I have worked on reducing the packaging that comes into our home.  I take my own containers to buy dry goods (flour, nuts etc) from bulk bins.  I have been able to take my own bottles to the local Co-op to get them refilled with apple cider vinegar, tamari and olive oil.  The local IGA supermarket and butcher accepted my own containers for meat, fish and deli items including sun-dried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese.

However, everything changed as COVID-19 arrived.  I can still buy dry goods in my own jars as long as they are scrupulously clean and have no remnants of previous contents.  We eat very little meat so I have not been to the butcher since the pandemic began.  Neither the Co-op or IGA are accepting containers to refill at the moment.  Will this change back when things settle down?  Will it become the new normal and the years of action on single-use packaging be unravelled by one virus?  Only time will tell.

These changes have forced me to reconsider my shopping habits.  The item which has been impacted most significantly is olive oil.  I used to take a litre bottle to the Co-op for it to be refilled but now I am obliged to buy a new 750ml glass bottle for $2.95 each time I wish to buy the local, organic olive oil.

This bottle will simply be refilled from the drum of olive oil as required now.  No more bottles.

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We use a significant amount of olive oil so my interest was piqued when I saw a sponsored post on Facebook from Nuggety Creek Olives.  After a bit of reading I discovered that I could buy a 20 litre drum of olive oil for $180.00 delivered to my door.  The extra virgin olive oil is produced from olives grown without chemicals and I believe the farm is currently being audited for organic certification.

The Nuggety Creek olive oil arrived safely and is now stored in a cool, dry cupboard.  I even made a drip catcher from an old dip container and a piece of wire salvaged from the shed.

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20 litres may sound like a lot of oil but I will be sharing it with at least 3 friends.  Thinking outside the box has allowed me to continue to minimise the packaging that we generate.

Bottles filled and ready for distribution to friends.

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I have not bought any of the other items I mentioned as yet but my next project is to look into a bulk source of olives.  While I understand that all foodstuffs must come in some sort of packaging or container, unless you produce it yourself, I am keen to buy in larger quantities, and therefore, minimise the impact.

Have you considered changing your shopping habits since the pandemic began?  Would community bulk-buying be an option for at least some products?

Refreshed and Updated

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It is now over 9 years since I began this blog.  There have been some hiccups along the way which included losing photos from the early blog posts.  Some have been restored and others have not.

After some time, I decided that an index was required as the recipes could be difficult to locate.  I created this but it was incomplete and certainly not up-to-date.  I have worked to rectify that but it will be an ongoing project.  The index contains hyperlinks to the posts containing recipes.  You will find the index under the tab labelled ‘Recipes – Food’ at the top of the blog.

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In an effort to make it easier for users to peruse the index, I have created various categories and listed the recipes in alphabetical order.

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There are over 70 recipes currently listed and include some which have been handed down through several generations as well as more recent acquisitions from friends and the internet and some of my own creations.  Many of the recipes are gluten-free or are able to be adapted to gluten-free as I began to eat a gluten-free diet early in 2012.

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In addition to the recipes I have also updated the blogroll on the right-hand side of the blog.  These are a selection of blogs that I find interesting and which have some similar themes to my own.  Blogs come and go so I have removed several which are no longer relevant or active and added others which have captured my interest more recently.  Please feel free to drop by and check them out.