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.

 

Sweet Chilli Sauce

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As promised, here is the recipe for the sweet chilli sauce.

A couple of weeks ago my sister gave me these chillies.  They are milder than our birdseye chillies and she assured me that they are just perfect for making sweet chilli sauce.

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As always, I consulted Google for a recipe and found this one.  It is from the Australian Women’s Weekly and it was refreshing to find an Australian recipe that I did not have to interpret or substitute either ingredients or measurements.

I had enough ingredients for a half quantity so this is what I used.

Sweet Chilli Sauce

125 gram fresh long red chillies
375ml white vinegar
250ml water
1 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Remove green stems from chillies, chop chillies coarsely with their seeds. Process chilli until finely chopped.

Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in large saucepan. Stir over low heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Add chilli, boil, uncovered, 20 minutes.
Add garlic; boil, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 3 cups (375ml). The sauce will thicken on cooling. Stand sauce 10 minutes.
Pour hot sauce into hot sterilised bottles, seal immediately. Cool, refrigerate.
NOTE:
I probably boiled mine a bit too long.  I think the cooking times need to be reduced for the reduced quantity.  It looked and tasted wonderful when I poured it into the bottle but the seeds and skin were too hard and chewy.
I left it for about a week while I considered my options.
Yesterday I removed it from the bottle and added about another 125ml of water.  This all went into my high-speed blender which effectively blitzed the skin and seeds.  I then simmered it for about 5 minutes before re-bottling it.
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We had Zucchini and Corn Fritters last night and the sweet chilli sauce was the perfect accompaniment.  It is rather more opaque and smooth than the commercial varieties but the taste is second to none.
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Simply Delicious

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Tonight I made zucchini and corn fritters for our dinner.  I checked out several recipes via Google and this is what I came up with.

Zucchini and Corn Fritters

350g potato (cooked and mashed)
1 and 1/2 zucchini (grated)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/3 cup chickpea (besan) flour
1 clove garlic (crushed)
Fresh rosemary and coriander (finely chopped)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Black pepper and herb salt

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Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Add spoonfuls to a hot frying pan with a little oil (I used coconut oil).  Cook on both sides until browned.  Remove to a warmed plate to serve.

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The quantity made 8 fritters.  We had 3 each for dinner served with beans from the garden and some homemade sweet chilli sauce.

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I will post the recipe for the sweet chilli sauce tomorrow.

A Late Lunch

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We were out and about for several hours today and since we did not start early, this included lunchtime.  Rather than stop for takeaway food, we opted to continue our quest which included buying timber and hardware as well as ordering a garden shed.

So, it was almost 3.30pm when we arrived home so I decided to make a main meal.  I am not sure whether to label it as a late lunch or early dinner but we had a delicious mushroom and bok choy risotto.

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Risotto is one of those wonderful one-pan meals that you can make using pretty well whatever ingredients you have on hand to add to the arborio rice mixture.

Here is a recipe based on what I made today but you can be as adventurous as you like when it comes to the flavours.

Mushroom and Bok Choy Risotto

Ingredients

1 cup arborio rice
1 onion, finely diced
Oil
6 medium mushrooms, sliced
1 large bok choy
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

Lightly saute the onion in a small amount of oil in a large pan (I use a wok).  Add the dry rice and toss until coated with oil/onion mixture.  Add stock powder, paprika and 1 cup of water.  Gently simmer, stirring occasionally and add more water as it is absorbed – about 1/2 cup at a time.  The rice will become cooked and somewhat creamy in consistency.

Meanwhile, separate the stalks from the leaves of the bok choy.  Finely slice the stalks and saute in a separate pan.  Finely shred the leaves.  When the rice is almost ready add the mushrooms, bok choy stalks and leaves.  Stir to combine and add seasoning as required.

Serve in bowls.  The risotto can be topped with shaved parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast for a vegan option.

NOTES:  I generally only add a maximum of 2 ingredients to risotto otherwise the flavours can be overwhelmed.  Other options include pumpkin and spinach, green bean and sundried tomato but you are only limited by you imagination.  You may choose to omit the paprika and substitute a can of crushed tomatoes instead of some of the water.

Cooking Day

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Today I cooked.  I was inspired by the large pumpkin I was given yesterday as well as the chickpeas I had cooked yesterday.

The first job was to pack up the baked beans I had cooked overnight in the slow-cooker.  I had some for breakfast as well as these 3 jars to go in the freezer and half a jar which are in the refrigerator to be used in the next few days.

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I then cut up the pumpkin.  The 2 trays of sliced pumpkin have been basted with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic syrup.  These will be used on pizzas. Some of the larger pieces will be cut up and added to the chickpea and vegetable curry while the remainder will be become pumpkin soup.  I pre-roast the pumpkin as it is easier than peeling it and I find that it also enhances the flavour.

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Meanwhile I moved onto the curry.  As well as the chickpeas and pumpkin this also had stalks of choy sum and half an eggplant diced.  I ended up with a total of 8 serves (4 meals for GMan and me).

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I had other plans for the choy sum leaves and the other half of the eggplant.  Using this recipe for Eggplant Lasagne Rolls as inspiration, I made a dish of lasagne using the finely shredded choy sum leaves mixed with half a tub of ricotta that I had in the refrigerator layered with the sliced eggplant and a rich, herbed tomato sauce.  This is ready to be baked for dinner tomorrow night.  I will add a mixture of flaxseed meal and parmesan cheese to the top when it is almost cooked.

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One pizza was for our lunch today which we enjoyed.  The other one is ready for the cheese to be added, cooked and eaten another day.

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All of these dishes were made using a combination of ingredients I had on hand in the pantry and refrigerator with produce I had been gifted and what was growing in the garden.  One of the most important aspects is to ensure that nothing goes to waste.

Finally, I made some more spreadable butter blend.

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Although the title of this blog post is ‘Cooking Day’, it occurred to me when you have access to fresh produce from the garden (either your own or kind friends) there is always something to do.

More about my other food adventures another day.

Celebration Cake

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In my last blog post I mentioned that I had made my own gluten free birthday cake.  I have made this cake numerous times over a period of several years and it is always well-received.

I was actually quite surprised that I do not appear to have posted the recipe on the blog previously.  The recipe was given to me by a friend from a recipe book published by Tania Hubbard but it is here on her website.  But for your convenience I have copied it below.

Chocolate Chia Seed Cake

By Tania Hubbard  , , ,

 

Ingredients

4 tablespoons chia seeds (soaked in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes)
1 cup almond meal (1 cup of pepita meal for nut-free-chocolate-cake-recipe)
1 cup coconut palm sugar (you can use less for sure)
1/2 cup cocoa (raw or dutch processed)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
125g butter (or 1/4 cup of olive oil or coconut oil)
4 medium eggs (60 gram eggs are medium)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bicarb)
P
inch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 180C
Line a spring form cake tin with non stick baking paper
3 Soak the chia seeds in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes, stirring regularly
4 In meantime place cocoa, eggs, almond meal, sugar, salt, bicarb and butter in a bowl
5 Whisk to combine well and break up any lumps
6 Add chia seed jelly and whisk until well combined
7 Pour into lined cake tin
8 Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes or until it bounces back when pressed in the middle
9 Let the cake cool for 5-10 minutes in the tin
10 Finish cooling on a wire cooling rack

I find that the cooking time is more like 45 minutes but it will depend on your oven.

The cake is quite dense and moist with an almost fudgy texture.  While I do serve it as a cake it lends itself particularly well to use as a dessert.

The combination of chocolate paired with fresh raspberries is perfect.

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The addition of a scoop of ice-cream or a dollop of cream would be the finishing touch.

The Pandemic Pantry – Leftovers

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Last night we had Mexican Quinoa for dinner.  You can find recipe here.  Since that original post, 3 years ago, I have modified it and eliminated the salami, making it a vegetarian dish.  Like many one pan dishes, the quantities are very flexible so you can easily adapt it to the number you are serving.

As I often do, I made more than I needed last night.  Instead of simply reheating for lunches or freezing for a future meal, I decided to make an entirely new dish.

Here is the leftover quinoa and some of the other ingredients.

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I used my basic zucchini quiche recipe with some modifications.  Instead of zucchini I grated 1 large carrot, the leftover quinoa and about a cup of baby spinach which I roughly chopped.  I did not use the onion as there was onion and other flavourings in the quinoa dish.

I would normally serve this with salad but I was inspired by what I had picked from the garden this afternoon.

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The quiche turned out really well.

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Served with balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes and butter beans.

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There is no photo but we finished off the meal with ice-cream and fresh homegrown raspberries.

The Pandemic Pantry – Recipes Part 1

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Last night we had a meal which I regard as a great standby as it is created entirely from what what we generally have on hand – pandemic or not.

TUNA MORNAY

The ingredients assembled.

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There are no real quantities as such but the amount I made will serve 4-5 adults.

Make up milk using milk powder.  Fresh milk is fine but if you are trying to make do, reconstituted powdered milk works well in cooking.  I used about 650ml for this recipe.

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Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add enough flour to make a fairly dry roux.  I use gluten free flour but regular wheat flour is perfect if you do not have any allergies or intolerances.

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Gradually add the milk and stir until smooth and thickened.  When using gluten free flour I use a stick blender to aid in the process.

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Add the juice of half a lemon, seasoning and a handful of grated cheese.  You can add about half a teaspoon of prepared mustard if you have it.

Add a large can of tuna (drained and flaked) and 3/4 cup frozen peas and 3/4 cup corn kernels.  I used frozen, homegrown corn but canned corn works equally as well.

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Here is some brown rice which I had cooked last week and frozen so it was simply reheated.  I do this in a glass dish in the microwave and add about 1/2 cup of water.

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Dinner is served.  This dish does not get points for visual appeal but it will feed empty tummies.

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Something which we should consider at any time but it is particularly important when popping to the shops is not really an option – food waste.  Therefore, at times like this we should be making a real effort to use everything we are fortunate enough to have.

This is the principle behind the meal I have planned for tonight.  It does not have a name but for the purpose of indexing it, I will call it:

EGGPLANT NOODLES WITH PESTO

1 large eggplant – julienned using V-slicer
Curly kale – finely shredded
1 tub of basil pesto dip
1/3 tub ricotta

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I chose and prepared all of the ingredients this morning.  The pesto had been purchased for another purpose and not used and the ricotta left over from the Eggplant Lasagne Rolls that I made a couple of days ago.  I will do a separate post about that recipe.

The method I will use is:

Lightly saute eggplant and set aside a keep warm.  Saute kale until wilted then add ricotta and pesto.  Stir through eggplant noodles and serve.

I think this sounds good and hope it lives up to expectation.